“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eight-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment, she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
After the craziness of the Christmas holiday in the church, many pastors all over the country flee towards their vacations. And because of that, like many pastors, I am rarely at church the Sunday after Christmas.
Which for obvious reasons, is great! The tradition in my congregation is to have a “Lessons & Carols” service each year at that time which is a wonderful morning of songs and lessons about the birth of Jesus. And it’s great for me because I am able to return in the new year with joy, excitement, and a renewed energy.
But this year, for the first time, I took a peak at the text that would have been preached. And I’m a bit sad to be missing Anna.
Most Sundays, our congregation follows the “Revised Common Lectionary“, which simply put – is a calendar of scripture. It follows a three year cycle and was put together several decades ago.
And this year, if Sunday the 31st of December had been any other Sunday, we would have heard words from scripture that I have rarely heard. A prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel.
Her story is brief, but every piece that Luke gives us is important.
Anna was of great age (84). She was a widow after only seven years of marriage. She devoted her life to the temple, to worship, fasting, and prayer.
And on this particular day, she left the place she never left. She left the temple to come and see this baby born in a manger.
And at the moment she came, she began to praise God. She spoke about the child to all who were looking for redemption.
She left her place of comfort to witness the Messiah. And at the moment she came near to him, she began to praise God and share God’s love and mercy: by sharing Jesus.
Anna’s story inspires me. Not just because of another example of unexpected people recognizing who Jesus is.
But that this woman is one of those unexpected people.
And I’ve been missing her!
What are unexpected ways you experience God in your life? Are there people who have surprised you in their faith? Have you surprised others? Are there stories from scripture that you wish you heard on Sunday more? Who from scripture or who in your life are you missing this post-Christmas season?