Saturday, 13 December 2014

Anna: An Advent Meditation

In Luke's gospel we're told (chapter 2) that there was a lady called Anna who was a prophetess. Luke goes on:

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.

Now, why should Luke bother to include a mention of this elderly lady? Honestly, what does this add that we don't already get from what Simeon said? Back then ink, paper and copying was an expensive and time consuming business. Is this merely a frivolous little cameo of life in first century Jerusalem? One that makes charismatics go "Hurrah!" and everyone else go "Well she was a bit intense!" Is he ticking his diversity box, making sure every sub-group gets a mention?


Anna's life tells a story that echoes the great story of history. Her story brings that great story into sharper focus and helps us to feel it more keenly. She's a symbol of the Old Testament Church. She is a matured (elderly) Eve.

Back at Eden, in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, Eve, symbolically became a widow. If you read what the LORD says towards the end of the chapter, He has no promises for Adam, all his promise of redemption is addressed to Eve. It is the seed of the woman who will crush the Serpent's head. Adam will not contribute anything. All he gets is judgments. Whilst Adam carries on living, and he will bring forth biological life, his ability to give spiritual life to Eve and through Eve to creation is gone. He is dead and buried as far as Salvation's story goes. (Notice that in Genesis 4. Eve get's all the airtime of the two, Adam is just a detail.)

Eve will hold on to that promise of a serpent crusher miraculously going forth from her womb as she ventures out into the wilderness beyond the temple mountain garden of Eden. Though Adam and Eve were never let back into the garden, they would come to the entrance to offer sacrifice. It's most likely where Cain and Abel offered their famous sacrifices of Genesis 4.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and we see the echo of Eve in the face of Anna the prophetess. Anna was married seven years to a man who then died, echoing the seven days of creation that culminated with Eve's marriage to Adam. He then spiritually died.

Anna, no longer the soft and tight-skinned fresh-faced virgin of Eden, but a tired, wrinkly worn out pensioner, who despite all the trials and temptations, all the joys and sorrows, all the false starts and hopes of life, held fast to God's promise of Messiah all her life long. And even though her eyes were failing and her strength fading, she finally saw the hope that she had long been waiting for when she looked into the face of that baby Jesus.

The Serpent Crusher of her youth was finally here.

True Israel, the Eves, Noahs, Abrahams, Sarahs, Jacobs, Josephs, Moseses, Samuels, Davids and others of the Old Testament who had waited and hoped through times of flood, famine, wealth, slavery, apostasy, warfare and anything else you care to mention, who had seen so many false starts in their people's history, finally in the face of this little baby, saw all their hope culminated.

The Serpent Crusher of their youth was finally here.

This widow would be married once again to a truly life giving husband.

No comments: