Anna’s Story

Yesterday at Linworth UMC, the young Associate Pastor Matt Yoder, preached on “Anna’s Story.”  Anna is one of those peripheral people in the Christmas story.  She appears in the story when Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated.  Anna is part of the symmetry of Luke’s gospel.  Luke’s Christmas story has three holy couples:  Zechariah and Elizabeth – the parents of John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary, and Simeon and Anna.

Simeon and Anna are not married but both come to the Temple because they have been led by the Holy Spirit to come and see the Messiah.  Simeon is an old man who has longed to see the Messiah come to Israel.  God has promised that Simeon will not die before he sees the Messiah, and when he sees Jesus he pronounces a beautiful blessing and then declares that Simeon is ready to die.

Rembrandt's painting of Anna
Rembrandt’s painting of Anna

Anna’s story follows Simeon’s and is even shorter.  Luke writes in chapter 2:36-38:  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.

Both Simeon and Anna are very old.  Both have longed to see the Messiah.  Both have dedicated their lives to worshiping and following God.  Simeon probably has a wife, children, grandchildren.  Anna was widowed when she was in her 20’s.  She has no children and so she stays in the Temple, day and night, worshiping and praying.  Instead of delight in her own children (Psalm 127:3 – Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward), Anna delights in worshiping God.  Because of these long years of dedication to God, Anna is rewarded by seeing this very special child.

Anna’s story does not end with seeing the Messiah, as does Simeon’s.  Instead, Luke tells us that Anna “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”  I’m sure many of the people to whom she spoke thought it was just the crazy lady who lives in the Temple.  But what about those who actually listened, who also wanted to see the Messiah?  Did they have a seed planted that made them take heed when Jesus began his ministry?  Were some of the people she spoke to the parents of those who would become disciples – as they came to dedicate their babies?  Did the story of “Old Anna”, a woman who had seen the infant Messiah, get discussed at the tables of the families to whom she spoke?  How many people believed or were disposed to believe in Jesus because of her witness?

We have also seen the Messiah in the Christmas story this week.  We have seen Jesus in our lives and witnessed his love and grace.  Who are we telling?  Do we take every opportunity to tell others about Jesus so that their hearts will be ready when the Holy Spirit calls them?

Jesus is alive.  He is real.  He is our Messiah – our savior.  And as long as I can, I will tell others what I have seen.  It is Anna’s story and it is mine.  Is it your story as well?