Over the three weeks leading up to Christmas I am going to be take my annual look at the Three Wise Women of Christmas – Anna, Elizabeth and Mary. So much time and attention has been given to the wisemen over the years that we have overlooked a part of the Christmas story that has so much more to teach us about wisdom and bowing down to King Jesus.
To really look at the story we are going to go back 84 years before Jesus birth. (Or by some accounts 106 years – 15 average marrying age + 7 years married + 84 years widowed.) That was when Anna, the prophetess, was born. She joins an elite group of women who are mentioned as prophets in scripture – Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and the daughters of Philip. Anna appears in only 3 verses of Luke’s telling of the birth of Jesus, and not at all in Matthew, but there is much we can learn from her.
Luke 2:36-38 says, “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.”
A widow in biblical times was particularly vulnerable and had no means of support. No children are mentioned so we can assume she had no one to care for her in her old age. To be a widow for so many years made her position even more precarious. Verse 37 tells us that she never left the temple. Herod’s temple had various rooms built into the outer walls and many believe that is where she lived, in a room built into the wall of the Courts of Women.
Verse 37 goes on to say that Anna worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. This is a women with a serious relationship with her Lord. A wise women who would have been allowed no farther than the Court of Women and who would have been well known to all of the younger women around her. One of the first biblical examples of a Titus 2 woman who would have trained the younger women in the ways of the Lord.
Anna had spent her entire life waiting for the birth of the Messiah. God’s timing had brought Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into the temple and into Anna’s path. And when prompted by the Holy Spirit she did not hesitate “coming up to them at that very moment.” How different our lives would be if we, too, responded in immediate obedience!
It goes on to say that “she gave thanks to God.” Liz Curtis Higgs in her wonderful book The Women of Christmas says, “If we did this one thing – this one thing – it would change our lives and the lives of those around us forever. If we blessed God openly and regularly, if we gave him credit instead of taking it for ourselves, if the first thing that came to mind and mouth was glorifying his name, we too might catch a glimpse of the Christ, as Anna did when she broke into an anthem of praise to God.”
Verse 38 concludes by saying Anna “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” The great good news of the birth of our Savior was too good to be kept to herself. Anna had spent 84 years of her life serving, worshiping, praying and fasting. She had built a reputation that would have put weight behind her words and caused all who heard to listen.
What an amazing example Anna is to all of us! She gives us an example of a person who is steadfast, totally devoted to God, obedient when he calls, thanking God in all things. A person who did not let age or circumstances sidetrack her from God’s call on her life.
Lord, may we be more like Anna. May we be prompt in our obedience and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. May we give thanks and praise to you in all things. And may we be a living testimony of your love and power to those around us. Amen