36 “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36–38)
Anna is another Christmas character who is often overlooked or just plain forgotten. Yet, Luke’s mention of her in his gospel account is significant. What do we know about Anna?
First, Anna was a prophetess. She was a woman who proclaimed inspired utterances on behalf of God. As one commentary explains, “Although the Old Testament did include prophetesses, they were much less prominent than male prophets in the Jewish tradition of this period. The name “Anna” is the Hebrew name “Hannah” (1 Sam 1:2).”
Anna was the daughter of Phanuel. Nothing more is said of Anna’s father. However, they were both from the Jewish Tribe of Asher.
The text goes on to say that Anna “was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “This godly woman from the prophetic tradition continued the work Simeon had started. Anna was 84 years old and had devoted herself completely to the Lord’s service in the temple since her husband had died years before.”
Another commentator says, “Jewish and Greco-Roman culture often viewed widows who never remarried as pious and faithful. Judith, a famous widow in Jewish tradition, was said to have lived as a widow till her death at 105. If one adds the two numbers given in the text here, seven and eighty-four (taking eighty-four as the length of Anna’s widowhood rather than her age), and she was married at the common age of fourteen, one could see her as 105 also.”
As Simeon was proclaiming his prophetic utterances about Jesus to Mary and Joseph, Anna just happened upon the scene. Anna began to give thanks to God announcing to any and all that Jesus was the redemption of Jerusalem. There are no coincidences.
Thus far in the biblical text, the birth of Jesus has been met with joy and gladness. However, the fallen world’s hatred of God and His Messianic gift will soon be rejected and hated. This hatred will be part of the key narrative regarding wise visitors from the east who come seeking He who was born King of the Jews.
Remember that as you seek to share the gospel, there will be those who not only will reject and hate the gospel’s message but will also hate you for sharing it. Always be prepared (I Peter 3:15).
Until then, may the Lord’s truth and grace continue to be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!