In part 1 of this series of Christmas blogs, I spoke of Simeon, the old man who recognized who the baby Jesus was as He was carried into the Temple by His parents. At the moment that Simeon was blessing Him and describing His identity, another person joined them – Anna the prophet. She also received a revelation from God that THIS was the Messiah, the One for whom the people had been waiting so long. She began to give thanks to God. Often Anna’s part in this “Christmas Play” is overlooked, but if we study her closely, we’ll see that who she was provides a guide as to how to get hope back in your life.

Her story is rich with symbolism and can help you raise your expectations about what God is doing in this world.

Why the story of Anna provides hope

As mentioned, the brief story about Anna is found in Luke 2. It is often brushed over, but if we slow down, we’ll find it’s packed with such prophetic meaning that can get us hopeful again. Here’s what it 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 eight-four. Anna never left the temple but worshipped 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.” (Luke 2:36-38)

Prophets are often the source of encouragement

A prophet can be a person who describes what is coming in the future. That is certainly true. But, they are often people who simply hear God far more clearly than others. They can interpret the times and tell people what God is doing in the present moment. Their words often contain specific details which delight and surprise their listeners. “God really knows me. He really sees me!”

Anna was described as a prophet. I notice that some translations of the Bible call her a prophet, some a prophetess (taking note of her gender). I always wonder if those who simply call her a prophet, ignoring gender, are extending to her more honor – implying that she was as worthy of this title as any other.

Anna was deeply connected to God

So that is the first piece of good news – Anna was profoundly in touch with God. How? By being a prophet and a worshipper. In verse 37, we read that she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Anna loved the Lord. She stayed in constant touch with Him. She was undoubtedly a woman filled with the Spirit, as her choice of living as she did would have opened doors of intimacy with God.

The point of this is that Anna would be among the first to know when God was moving on behalf of His people. She was in touch. They could trust what she said and we can too.

Luke shares interesting details about Anna

Luke, the gospel writer of Luke and Acts, gives lots of details in some places and is “mum” in others. There are many things he doesn’t say about Anna. But, what he does say, again, provides signposts about how to get hope back in your life. God has always been on the move with the plan to redeem His people – no! – not just His people Israel, but the entire world. This little story of Anna pulls back a curtain and lets us see this exciting, hope-stirring truth.

Anna is the daughter of a man named Penuel. You might also see it in some places as Peniel or Phanuel. But no matter the change in spelling, do you know what the name means? It means Face of God. Anna’s father’s name is prophetic because who would eventually and most importantly show us the face of God in the flesh? Jesus!

Yes, Jesus. He came to reveal the heart of the Father. Jesus said, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son, except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27).

Anna is of the tribe of Asher

Why does Luke put in this small detail of Anna’s tribe and how does it also lead us to hope?

Asher was one of the northern tribes, captured and dispersed in the first exile. This tribe was from the area of the Mediterranean coast near to the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. In the book of Matthew, Matthew ties in Jesus’ leaving Nazareth to move to Capernaum to prophecy from the book of Isaiah.

Matthew 4:14 says that this move was to “fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah.” And what were Isaiah’s words:

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)

The great dawning light in the world would be Jesus. Anna was seeing the face of God on Him and was explaining to the bystanders, “God has not forgotten us. He has taken notice of our need and He has sent our redemption. Here He is!”

 

how to get hope back in your life

Anna was 84 and full of life

In an article called “Anna of Asher,” author Dave Shaw, wrote about the symbolism of Anna’s age – 84. “…the number is also symbolic. Eighty-four represents the fullness of God’s people. 84=7×12. Seven is the number of creation, or completion, and 12 is the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. So 84 is the completion of God’s people.”

Shaw continued to explain, in his article, the significance of the moment. He wrote, “Anna, like Israel has come to the fullness of time. With the coming of Jesus, 84-year-old Anna shows us that the Old Covenant system is complete. Before Jesus, tribal associations are important. The Gospels record the genealogies of both Joseph and Mary, and they both go back to Abraham. Joseph’s even to Adam. From now on, Jesus replaces the genealogies. What matters is no longer tribe, but if you are born of Jesus…Jesus comes and Anna turns 84. Both these events signal the completion and fulfillment of the old covenant in the Christ. Now Jesus brings in a New Covenant.”

God honors a woman who is a widow

One of the beautiful aspects of the Gospel of Luke is that he particularly honors “the little people.” Women, the poor, widows, foreigners – Luke gives them a place and shows how Jesus respects and includes them. This is the heart of God – He “does not show favoritism,” but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35)

God loves the little people, the unknown ones, the humble ones who love and serve Him. That is the hope in this message too – that God would show baby Jesus and reveal His glorious identity to two little, unknown folks – not professional religious leaders – not the high priest or anyone else highly visible.

God’s heart towards the least of these

God values the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15) to confirm something, and here it is two little, old people, unknown but clinging to their hope and faith in God. And, one of these witnesses is Anna, a woman, and a widow. Widows in that day were seen as pathetic people – very often impoverished without a husband, unless they had protective sons.

Additionally, in the first century, women were not considered fitting to be witnesses by Jewish law.

Yet, Anna gets to do the honors of saying, “This is it. God is redeeming our nation. The time has come.” The God who would graciously let this widow woman be His herald is a marvelous, loving God. “His thoughts are not our thoughts. Neither are our ways His ways. (Isaiah 55:8) That in itself, should gives us hope. God is kinder, greater, truer, more faithful…and so on.

Anna’s very name points us to hope

Anna’s name is derived from Hannah and guess what it means? grace or favored. Hannah, in the Book of 1 Samuel, longed for a child. Her name is derived from a word that means “God has favored me with a child.”

God favored Anna with a child too, the Christ Child for whom she longed. He favors us all with Him, God the Son, our Redeemer, our Savior.

We can be hopeful about the future

I often think of the story in Exodus where God is calling Moses to lead His people out of captivity in Egypt. God says, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8)

God sees the need of His people. He takes note. And though we have so often strayed, He always has planned to deliver us, to restore the world. Jesus is the fullness of that plan. Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

So, why have hope at Christmas 2021?

In this brief little vignette about baby Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, we have seen that Anna’s name means favored. Her father’s name means “face of God,” and her tribe is that of Asher located near Zebulon and Naphtali, the places (Galilee region) where great light has come.

Anna saw, by the Spirit, that the baby Jesus was our Redeemer and she began to proclaim it – though herself, an “unknown voice” and a woman, at that. She began to speak, to preach to those hungry for the redemption of God. God chose her to be His messenger.

God is making a way for humanity

The world and life are not hopeless. God remains supremely in charge and He sent His Son to redeem and save all who turn to Him. The arrival of “our redemption” is an accomplished event of over 2000 years ago. We can be hopeful because of that. Our Redeemer, Jesus, lives and God has a plan for the final act of history. Things are unfolding as they should.

Anna shows us how much God treasures the ordinary, but obedient person. She demonstrates the beauty and value of worshipping, praying, and fasting for drawing close to the Lord. We can hear His voice like her. We can bless others with the words we share about Jesus. Anna did it. We can too.

Thanksgiving marries us to hope

And finally, it’s important to note that Anna approached Simeon, Joseph and Mary, and the baby Jesus giving thanks to the Lord. I saw a beautiful meme yesterday that came out of Bill Johnson’s ministry. On a background of flowers, it said, ‘Thanksgiving marries us to hope.”

Bill Johnson said this within the post:

“I believe that the secret to mental health is to give thanks in everything. Thanksgiving refreshes our perspective of who God is, and repositions our heart into a place of hope for the future. Is there anything we could possibly face that He doesn’t already have a solution for?”

Let Anna help you to look up and see God’s glorious face and love shining on you. Christ has come. The future is secure. We have every reason to hope. God is unfolding HIS plans and right on time. So, Merry Christmas 2021!

 

how to get hope back in your life 2

 

Further Resources:

How Can I Have Hope at Christmas?

Church Attendance Strengthens Spiritual Health

Coping with Difficult Feelings During Holidays

 

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