Looking beyond the past into the future – Sixth day within the octave of Christmas – Luke 2:36-40

In 516 BCE the reconstruction of the Temple was complete. King Herod renovated it in 19 BCE, expanding the facility to include what was basically a large shopping precinct, where you could buy religious goods and animals for sacrifice. It would have been a great sight to behold, especially for Mary and Joseph who had come from a very small town to the big city. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews. They would have travelled for about a week to get there, at great expense. For them, observing the laws of purification was absolutely essential. They are here for the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus. It is here that they encounter Simeon and Anna.

The Christmas season celebrates the birth of a child but the Gospels include many venerable figures like Simeon, Elizabeth, Zechariah and Anna in these narratives.  We have already dwelt on Simeon, who as part of his bucket list (a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”) desired to see the Lord’s Messiah. Today we are introduced to Anna in Luke 2:36.

Anna is a prophetess, another of the ‘Quiet in the Land’ who had lived to a great age. In a few words we are given a summary of her life – her name, her father’s name, her tribe and her long life as a widow. She is the only widow named in the Gospel of Luke.

Her story is one of sorrow. She was married for just seven years before her husband died. She was left as a young widow. She may have been in her early twenties when this happened. One would imagine that in her situation she would soon find another husband, or that her kinsmen redeemer would come and raise up children for her husband who had died. But this is not what happens. She decided to stay single. She took a path that many women of her time would run away from and even loathe.  

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