This is the last of a four part series for advent focusing on the Women of Christmas.
Some titles are very rare, some military medals are not often awarded, some qualifications are difficult to obtain. Rarity increases value, elevates status and enhances desirability.
The title “Prophetess” is very rare in the Bible. Miriam, Deborah and Huldah appear in the Old Testament. Philip has four daughters who prophesied but titled examples are few and far between.
Then there is Anna, our third women of Christmas. She gets one mention in three verses of about 82 words, but these few words speak volumes. She is called a prophetess, meaning spokesperson for God. Her job title involves speaking out what God is saying at the time and place.
At that time and in that place Anna does two things. First she gives thanks to God, second she speaks about the child.
Luke describes it as a moment, for it cannot have lasted very long, but it was a moment full of meaning seized by a woman who was ready for it.
How did Anna get to that moment? How did she seize it? What does this moment tell us about Anna? What does it hold for you?
Anna’s father was called Phanuel, which means face of God. Phanuel is the name of the place where Jacob met God face to face- because Jacob named it so. Perhaps Anna had grown up with a loving father who had shown her the face of God in his smile, we don’t know that, but she certainly acts that way. She was from a tribe which had been blessed with fertile and fruitful land. Perhaps she had learned to be grateful for such nourishment. We don’t know, but she does act that way.
Anna had been married for seven years then became a widow, but she had not become resentful, angry or sour. For at least sixty, maybe seventy years she had grown old alone but not without purpose in her life.
It seemed she had been given living quarters in the temple, probably because of her ability to prophecy into the lives of those who were open, both to the prophecy, and the concept of a prophetess. She would be known to many and her largest audience were the forward looking, open-minded, searching ones.
They had heard her words, tasted their relevance, admired her spirituality. Now, at 84, she specialised in three things which connected to her prophecy. She worshipped (day and night), fasted and prayed.
What would have been her temptation? Surely she would be tempted to complain, she had lost her husband. She would have been tempted to question God, she was abandoned. She would have been tempted to dwell on the negative; there were plenty of struggles in her life.
But Anna chose to dwell in the temple, not the valley, she chose to worship, not complain and she chose fasting and praying over negativity.
The result was a vibrant, mature, wise, discerning, godly 84 year old woman who was forward looking, not past focused.
I don’t doubt Anna would have had her dark times but she is noted as a worshipper, she has managed to let praise and thanks fill her soul. Instead of wanting to feed off the sympathy of others, she fasted and prayed so she could feed others with words from God.
Age had not made her bitter, backward or broken; she was alive and alert when a young couple arrived with an eight day old beautiful baby boy.
Anna could see in that very moment the face of God, for she had been staring at it all her life. Anna could hear the Word of God made human, for she had heard if for many years.
He was the Living Bread she had fasted and fed on this for countless days. Here was the one she had worshipped, visiting her place of worship; she had no trouble seizing the moment.
So she gives thanks with depths she had not reached before and she speaks – to whom? To all who were looking forward. An 84 year old with a future focus.
As I write I realize the world needs such women, old, wise, alive, forward looking, full of praise, worship fasting and prayer. I have met a few. They are nectar to the soul.
Anna, the prophetess, stands tall as a rare woman of history calling to her peers to follow her lead but coming along side those who are younger as she sees Mary, married at a similar age to her, and speaks to her on behalf of God.
She is a true woman of Christmas.
Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all our readers.
36 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, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 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.
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