Waiting~ An Advent Journey
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Coming up to them at that very moment,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When I was in Bible college, we had the ask-100-questions-of-the-passage assignment in one of our classes. By the time you got to 50 questions, they started to get a little bit ridiculous. Like what was the color of the dirt? or was there a tree by the side of the road? But the exercise was memorable and made the point. Asking questions is one way to go beyond a casual reading of scripture. Inquisitiveness is a valuable asset in Bible study.
I am always intrigued by Anna when I read about her in Luke 2. I wish that my assignment had been on her, because I don’t have any difficulty coming up with questions. There is so much that I want to know! Like…
- How did she become a prophet?
- Did she love her husband?
- Was she relieved when he died or heartbroken?
- Did she have siblings?
- Did her husband have brothers?
- How did she end up in the temple instead of being taken care of by family?
- Did she have children?
- Where did her passion for God come from?
- What was it like to hear directly from God?
- How did she feel when she realized that Mary and Joseph were carrying the Messiah?
- How did she sustain trust in God for such a long period of waiting?
These are just a few of the questions I would love to have answered.
What we do know is that she was waiting for the Messiah to come. One definition of waiting is this- the act of remaining inactive or stationary. But there was nothing inactive about Anna’s waiting.
Instead, she was worshiping God day and night. She spent her days fasting and praying. I don’t know many 84 year old women who would be able to claim that.
The result of Anna’s worshiping is that she knows God will be faithful to His promises. She trusts that He will send the Messiah. And although we have no knowledge as to how much God revealed to her on the subject, we do know that she was at the same temple as Simeon who HAD been told that the Messiah would come in his lifetime and that he would see him. (Which brings me to other questions- did Anna know Simeon? Was she aware of the prophecy he had received? Did Anna ever doubt? Would she go to Simeon to be reminded of the prophecy?).
Anna has been faithfully worshiping God for many years, when one day Mary and Joseph walk into the temple with a precious baby boy cradled in Mary’s arms. They present their firstborn, Jesus to be consecrated. And all of a sudden, Simeon is there, taking Jesus into his arms and proclaiming some of the most beautiful words in scripture…
“…my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
I can almost picture Anna, hearing Simeon’s words, her heart welling up with overwhelming delight. Could it be? Has it finally happened? After all this time? The Messiah is here?!!
The joy she must have felt in that moment is incredible. I get impatient when I have to wait 10 minutes in a check out line. I felt like I couldn’t bear it when I had to wait for 3 weeks after I first started having contractions before my baby was born. But to wait for years upon years?!!
Her response is exactly what I would expect it to be. She gives thanks to God and then she has to tell everyone!
Anna’s legacy challenges me every single time I read the three verses in scripture that are devoted to her. Because we too are in a time of waiting. We are waiting for the 2nd coming of the Messiah. And I wonder, am I waiting in an inactive way? Or am I waiting like Anna, worshiping God with my life, bringing glory to Him in how I live?
I want to live as Anna did- expectantly waiting not inactively waiting.
Special thanks to Kirsten Oliphant for the opportunity to be one of many writers participating in the “Voices in the desert” advent journey.