Summary: Anna is one more in the line of Luke’s witnesses validating the inbreaking of God into humanity. Her two-fold response is a pattern for us.
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All scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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There is a wonderful line is the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Maria, is speaking, after her husband has just reminded everyone that he is the head of the house. And Maria says, after he leaves the room, “Well, the man may be the head but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.”
Women rule! Have you noticed how the women have big time roles in the arrival of Jesus – not in the brash sense of female manipulation – which is what Maria was talking about. But there is a sense in which they are the neck upon which the head turns -- especially in this story.
Women are center stage at the coming of the Messiah. They are pivotal in the story. Elizabeth, then Mary the Virgin mother of the Savior – who had the biggest part – and now this morning heads in the Temple are turning toward Anna.
Just as Joseph and Mary are finishing up with their conversation with Simeon, who we talked about last week, onto the stage comes Anna – a very old woman - according to verse 36.
She had been married for 7 years before her husband died and she was 84 years old, according to verse 37.
Now if you do the math, figuring that she married at 14-years – the common age for marriage – and had been married 7 years – that means she had been a widow for 63 years -- give or take a few years.
We don’t know anything else about her – whether she had children or relatives or whether she was a college graduate. But we can speculate – reading between the lines – that she was probably a little strange – at least as most people would have seen things.
A lovely young 21-year-old woman who never remarried -- unusual in that culture -- a woman so preoccupied with her religion that she actually figured out how to live in the Temple. Verse 37 says that "she never left the Temple and worshiped God with fasting and prayer night and day."
Verse 36 says that she was a prophet. And you know about prophets – people who see things other people don’t see – people with divine insight – people with messages from God.
We look at them and think “Wow – how spiritual. We admire their faith but under our breath we thank God that we’re not like them. Prophets, no matter how good they are, how much they know God, and how helpful they are – well, they’re just not normal people. They amke us uncomfortable. They are idiosyncratic and eccentric. They are just not the types of people that you’d like to spend the day with.
And I’m sure that some of strange Anna’s relatives thought she had wasted her life – not that they weren’t interested in the kingdom of God and the promised Messiah – but at least they had lives. They enjoyed feasts and family. They had friends and adventures. But Anna stayed in the Temple – sleeping where? On a slab of rock behind some colonnade? Dependent on people to occasionally bring her food and drink.
Some must have looked at her and said – what a waste! She could have had a life.
But like prophets of old Anna was focused – focused on seeing and hearing what God was up to – focused on speaking for him. And when she saw old Simeon with that young couple and their baby she knew – she knew that he was the one she had been waiting for.
Don’t ask how. She knew. God somehow told her. After all she was a prophet. God spoke to her in a unique way. And indeed this is why Luke includes her in his gospel account.
She appears as a witness for the incarnation – in line with Simeon, the angels, the shepherds, the baby in Elizabeth’s belly who leaps for joy, and Zechariah – many of whom seem to be quoting the Old Testament prophets – somehow drawing them in as witnesses as well.
St. Luke wants us, his readers, to see that this is it. This is the highpoint of human history. God has entered human flesh. So things will no longer be the same. This is what we’ve all been waiting for – more or less. Some like Anna were a lot better at waiting than others.
Some no longer really believed that God was going to send a Savior Messiah. Most, I suspect, were casual believers. They liked the idea of a Savior – but really it didn’t have that much impact on their day to day existence.