Luke 2:36-38, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. ”
Anna, seemingly a minor character in the Christmas drama, spoke of the Lord Jesus to all the people who were in Jerusalem looking for redemption. How she managed to do that was by being at the place where they would come looking for redemption, the temple.
Several facts about Anna and her valiant witness for the Lord jump out. First of all, we have all heard that there were rooms constructed around the perimeter of the temple that could function as storerooms or as chambers for priests who were sleeping at the temple before or during their obligation to perform duties there. I have never heard of a woman using one of those rooms. Yet it seems Anna pretty much lived at the temple. She was either 88 years old or 88 years widowed (the interpretation isn’t solid there, according to Bible scholars) and she was using her advanced years to serve God in His House. In fact, she was the original elderly volunteer, wasn’t she? And this one didn’t even need a ride to get there!!!
Something that also jumps out at me. What was Anna even doing in Jerusalem in the first place? Where were her relatives?
Since I love history, I am conscious of the ten Northern tribes of Israel going into Assyrian captivity about 700 years before Christ, and never coming back from it (that is what we refer to as the “ten lost tribes of Israel”). Anna was not only a descendant of the tribe of Asher (one of those ten tribes), but she knew that. How did she get to Jerusalem from that backstory?
God is a God of individual relationships and redemption. Even if a whole tribe pretty much went into captivity and never returned, there were still remnants of that tribe who individually served God in some pretty profound ways. He is like that. He does deal with nations and groups, but He delights to deal with people individually. And He somehow got Anna to the temple in Jerusalem to wait for His Son while the rest of her tribe got lost!
What a wealth of relationship God shows us here. He used this daughter of Asher, a lost tribe, in her elderly years, to point lost people to Him. As her life was slowing down, God’s call to relationship was stepping up, via His Son. God, Who had always delighted in fellowship with people, was invading history to ensure that millions of us could live forever with Him.
This sweet old lady played a huge part in that, and in doing so, gained mention in three verses of the Christmas story. May we, too, be motivated all life long to serve the One who loved us unto death.