This Sunday will be the closing Sunday for our celebration of Epiphany. We will be taking on a scripture passage that is often skipped over, and seldom gets the attention that it should—Jesus being presented at the temple. At first glance, much of what is contained in the passage is easy to skim over and just keep reading, but there is actually some incredibly rich territory to mine here.
Perhaps one of the more interesting pieces of this passage is the Prophetess Anna. There is only one person in the New Testament that is expressly given the title prophet, and it is Anna. Others seem to display prophetic utterances (like Simeon in this passage), but she is the only one that is given that title. Even John the Baptist, who very clearly seems to play the role of the prophet, denies the title prophet in John 1:21. The office of the prophet is maintained, (1 Corinthians 12:28 or Ephesians 4:11), but still, no one else is given this title explicitly.
Anna is a remarkable character and we can’t help but be amazed at how she is described. Her faith and devotion are a testament to a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to the worship of God. Her timeline alone is somewhat amazing, since it says she was married for 7 years and widowed for 84. If we were to guess that she was married somewhere between 12-14 years old, at the very least we are talking about a 103 year old woman!
We will talk a great deal about some of the other remarkable aspects of Anna’s character on Sunday, but one aspect that I think bears some reflection here is her age. I might also point out here that Simeon in this story was no spring chicken either. And so we have the examples of two wizened elders sharing their gifts with the people of God. In the time of Anna, elders were held in much greater esteem than they are today. Our culture often times wants to sweep those of advanced age and wisdom to the side and make room for the next generation. To say this is a travesty is to drastically understate the situation. We often celebrate the youth within our church, but we aren’t always as prepared to celebrate those with the wisdom of years—I admit, that I am just as guilty, if not more so, than most on this.
I can’t tell you how often I have heard someone say something along the lines of, “I served my church when I was younger, now it is someone else’s turn.” Clearly, Anna and Simeon fly in the face of such statements. One of the great blessings of the church is that it is one of the few places in our culture where different generations gather in one place. If we simply gather and do not learn from each other, we are missing one of the great gifts of our community. I would hope that us young pups would be ever more willing to listen to the wisdom of our very own Annas and Simeons. And for those Annas and Simeons that are reading this, I hope that you will be ready and willing to share your gifts with us.
For some more thoughts on Anna, check this article out: