Tag Archives: Anna

God’s People, part 146: Anna

Read Luke 2:36-38

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.”  (Luke 8:1-3, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

anna-rembrandtPart 146: Anna. In the last devotion, Jesus’ parents brought Jesus up into the Temple to be circumcised on the eighth day, according to Jewish custom. Following the ceremony, they ran into an old man named Simeon who blessed the child and prophesied on the significance of his birth. This man had been promised by God that he would see the coming of the Messiah and now, having witnessed the Christ-child, he was content to die.

The story does not end there; rather, it continues on in a woman named Anna. Before getting into Anna’s story, there needs to be a basic awareness of the social norms of first century Judaea. Typically, society did the value that women had in society was relegated to childbearing, childrearing and housekeeping. The women were responsible for passing down the faith to her children as a part of her childrearing duties; however, that was the basic extent of women’s value in first century Judaea.

Men, on the other hand, had the real voice. Thus, it makes sense that someone like Simeon, in the context of the times, would be the one to prophecy and proclaim the coming of the Christ. It makes sense, within the first century social framework, that visions and proclamations would come from men and not women. In fact, if you look at the Gospel of Matthew you will notice that the visions and actions were done on the part of Joseph, not Mary. Mary has absolutely NO VOICE in that Gospel.

But Luke is not Matthew and his Gospel operates counter to the way the other Gospels operate. Sure, Simeon gets his moment in the Temple to see visions and proclaim the Christ child; however, he is merely a common person. He’s no prophet or soothsayer; rather, he is just an old man holding on to the promises of God.

Anna, on the other hand, is described by Luke in the following way: “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years” (Luke 2:36, NLT). Simeon was a common man, and Anna was the prophet. As is always the case, Luke flips the social conventions of his day on their head.

While Simeon saw a vision and shared that vision with Mary and Joseph, Anna began praising God and proclaiming to the whole Temple that the Messiah had arrived. While Simeon was blessed with holding the child and praising God before the child’s parents, Anna was tasked by God with proclaiming the Good News to the whole Temple that day.

Luke lets us know that Anna was an old woman, who had been widowed for many years. Widows with no sons to care for them often became homeless. This may have been the case for Anna, who is said to have NEVER left the Temple day or night since the death of her husband. But there’s more to it than that. The reference of never leaving the Temple also suggests that Anna was in close and never-ending communion with God! Wow, right?

This aged widow, this “nobody” in terms of first century social standards, was in direct communication with God through fasting and prayer. Rather than having been voiceless, Anna is the one who tells everyone the GOOD NEWS! You see, God cannot be imprisoned or contained by our social standards. God transcends them and empowers those we would rather keep in their place.

The challenge for us is to reflect on this. We are being to challenged to reflect on the ways in which we try to keep people in their places by placing our social standards like giant cinder blocks around the necks of the voiceless. Remember, God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s wisdom far surpasses our own. Let us be a people who step out of the way and defer such judgment to God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  – Paul of Tarsus in Galatians 3:28

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see past my own biases and the biases of my society in order to see people as you see them. Amen.

Unfrozen

Read Matthew 18:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6 NRSV)

FrozenCastleMy family and I just came back from what was a really enjoyable vacation at Walt Disney World. Anyone who knows us, knows that we LOVE Walt Disney World. Our family has made many memories there that we will no doubt cherish forever. We had decided to go around this time of year because Disney at Halloween time is simply a great place to be. With that said, we were also going to be there for the first week of November, where the parks switch over from the Halloween them to a Christmas theme. Knowing I would never get down during Christmas time, I always wanted to at least see Disney decked out for Christmas, an.d so we planned this vacation!

We weren’t let down. On our last night at The Magic Kingdom, we got to see this year’s lighting of Cinderella’s Castle. It is actually hard to put it into words how awesome. It was themed after Frozen, where Elsa (the Snow Queen) comes out and freezes over the entire castle with ice. To pull this off, they projected images of snow and ices swirling and crystallizing upon the castle, followed by sparkling lights, projected images of shattered snow while simultaneously lighting what seemed to be billions of white, icicle style Christmas lights all over the castle…giving it the appearance of being frozen. What’s more, actual snow was being blown quietly from somewhere thus adding to the magic!

Watching this, I felt like a little child. I was bright-eyed, filled with wonder and amazement, and captivated by the experience. Everyone there was! I captured it on video, and even on video it looked amazing. Being the reflective person I am, this also caused me to reflect on the story of Frozen, which is about two sisters who learn that their innocence isn’t completely lost, and that true love (not romantic love…but true, unconditional love) can rediscover that innocence. The story of Frozen was, as you may or may not know, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic Fairy Tale, “The Snow Queen.” What is captivating is that Andersen ends his fairy tale with the following verse: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

In this context, converted does not mean from one religion to another; rather, it means being changed or transformed from one state of being to the other. As adults, we are so hardened by the world. We have become cynical, cautious, defensive, faithless and, consequently, often left feeling hopeless in a world that seems to be without hope. Like Elsa in Frozen, and like The Snow Queen in Andersen’s story, we have become frozen solid. We’re frozen by a frosty world and, in turn, we participate in spreading the snow like winds traveling over the Great Lakes.

The truth is, as Elsa found out, that we are not hopeless. Somewhere deep within us there is the child that God created us to be. Deep within us is an innocent child filled with wonder, faith and amazement. The truth is that innocence is not lost and Christ is calling us to be converted to the state of being child-like. The key is that we need to learn to live like Christ and to love like God. We need to open ourselves to the LOVE and WARMTH of the presence of God and allow our frozen exteriors to be melted away.

I truly believe that if we start attempting to shift ourselves in the direction of Christ’s footsteps, if we start living and loving like he did, if we start caring for others as much as we care for ourselves, if we start taking care of the least of these and begin living into Christ’s mission of bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those around us, then we will begin to “convert” to the child that God has created us to be. So, to quote a famous song from FROZEN, “let it go!” Let go of the frosty ice that is entombing the innocent child within you. Allow God to ignite the fire of LOVE within you so that you may emanate that warmth to the world around you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

PRAYER
Lord, warm me up with your love and spark a fire with in me so that I may bear the warm presence of your love within me and share that love with others. Amen.