(This article first appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
Coming into February, the church celebrates one of the loveliest of all festivals, The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40). As this story is told in sacred text, song and art, Simeon is always in the foreground. We see him reaching out to receive and cradle the Child in his arms. We hear him utter those words we know as his Song, declaring the Child to be the glory of Israel and a light to all nations. As Mary and Joseph “marvel” at the things said about him, Simeon “blesses” them. Then he turns to Mary and speaks words that for a young mother are hard to bear-words about the destiny of her child and the fall and rising of many because of him; and of a pain she will bear, “a sword that will pierce [her] soul” (Luke 2:35). Years later at the foot of the cross, she would know the anguish of which Simeon speaks in this moment.
Luke writes, “there was also a prophet, Anna…” (Luke 2:36). Like Simeon, she was righteous and devoted, never leaving the temple, “but worshipping there with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37).
It has always been a challenge for artists to capture Anna standing still. I suppose it is because she is busy scurrying about the temple and chatting up the Child to “all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). One can just imagine her beckoning people, “Come and see. The child of whom the prophets spoke is here. Come and see him.” One can just imagine the buzz of conversation as they gather around the Child, some filled with awe and wonder and some questioning, “Can this really be the Messiah of God?” Whatever their responses, Anna just keeps on announcing the Child. She does the work of an evangelist.
In every generation, the church has been wonderfully blessed by women who, like Anna, have invited everyone to come and see the Child of Light, the Lord of Peace, and it still is. I meet them everywhere I go in my travels throughout our church.
This year, as we keep this feast, I will be remembering with intent the Annas in my own life and ministry-past and present, and I invite you to think of the Annas in yours. Let us thank God for the grace and goodness of their living, and for every word-spoken and unspoken-by which they call us to the joy of a life in Christ.