During this Advent season, we prepare our hearts for Christmas through the eyes of three women who lived the Christmas story: Elizabeth, Mary and Anna. Elizabeth taught us that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan of salvation. Mary’s humility and obedience inspired us to allow God to use us as instruments in his hands. This week we meet Anna, a prophetess and widow who waited her whole life for the Redeemer of Israel and finally saw baby Jesus when she was already very old.
Anna’s short story is recorded in Luke 2:36-38.
When Jesus was around forty days (six weeks old) Mary and Joseph took their precious baby to the temple to obey the Jewish laws of purification. At the temple they were greeted by Simeon, “who was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). God had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord Jesus Christ. On this particular day, the Spirit sent him to the temple where he met Jesus, the child, and blessed him.
Standing not too far from Simeon was a very old widow who had been spending all her days at the temple proclaiming the love of God to anyone who stood still long enough to listen. Anna must have heard the commotion around Jesus. Experts estimate that she was between 84 and 110 years old and had spent at least sixty years at the temple “worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:38). When she saw Jesus she “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for redemption“.
In these two short verses, we learn so much from the way God rewarded Anna’s faith, obedience and expectancy.
Lessons from Anna
1. She did not give up
Whether Anna was 84 years old or had been a widow for 84 years, she had been waiting for her Redeemer for a very long time. While she was waiting, she kept telling others about the redemption of Israel that God would be sending soon. It is so easy to get discouraged in our walk of faith or ministry. Sometimes spreading the news of Jesus feels like running into a brick wall, but Anna teaches us to persevere. She shows us that touching others with the truth holds a great reward, especially when you see the transformation of those hearts that lead to redemption.
2. She was obedient
Anna was still young when her husband passed away. She could have easily remarried and started a new life. But she felt God’s calling on her life and obeyed. We have often heard that God does not call the equipped but equips the called. When we look at our lives it is often difficult to see what God could possibly want to use us for, but he draws us out of our comfort zone to glorify his name.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 4:10-11
3. She teaches us that God can use anyone
God’s calling on Anna’s life proves that he places no value on the things the world values like power, status or background. If one of us had to choose someone to wait for Jesus and spread the gospel in the temple, we wouldn’t have chosen an old, frail lady like Anna, but God saw her heart and needed her witness. God prefers to use the background workers who humble themselves before him.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,Psalm 138:7-9
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
4. God provides for those who trust in him
In the ancient Jewish culture Anna had no value. She was a widow without a male caretaker. She had no form of income and no one to provide for her. Yet she trusted that God would provide her with all the clothing, shelter and food she would need because he was using her for his purposes.
5. Anna was a witness of Christ
Anna inspires us to tell everyone we meet about our wonderful Saviour Jesus Christ. She didn’t wait for a forum or an opportunity. She didn’t care that she had no training or that she was a poor widow instead of a rich Rabbi. Nothing prevented her from speaking about Jesus. She began “to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.1 John 2:28
Even in the small passage of Scripture that she occupies Anna is humble and unassuming. Yet, she teaches us so many valuable lessons about faith. She kept her hope in God’s promise to save his people. She understood that without intervention from God we have no hope of salvation. She reminds us that we are sinful and helpless and only Jesus can save us.
May the lives of these three women serve as a reminder to each one of us that God is the perfect giver of the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ and we are the undeserving blessed receivers of this precious gift.