January 4, 2023 (The Tenth Day toward Epiphany)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Coming up to them at that very moment, Anna gave thanks to God and spoke of the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2.38)
Before we can “move on” to the story of the Magi which is the essence of the Day of Epiphany, we have to embrace the presence of Anna the prophetess. She had devoted the entire “rest of her life” (read verses 36 and 37) to serve in the Temple and literally as well as figuratively “wait upon the Lord.” She had already made her move to live a life of righteousness. She determined to be found in the House of the Lord so that she would not miss “the coming of the Lord who would redeem Jerusalem.” We ought to hear how Luke presents Anna in this scene as a counterpart to Simeon who looked forward to the consolation of seeing God’s promise to redeem Israel. Such juxtaposition is a key element to the spiritual understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus. While Israel represents the “people of God,” Jerusalem represents “the heart of the people for God.” If the heart is not good, then the body will become stone cold. In other words, dead and lifeless. Those who do not allow the Spirit of God to move in them and through them are what some today call “the walking dead.” Anna was not going to be one of those people. She did not allow the sorrow of a husband who died in their seventh year of marriage leaving her childless to turn her away from God. She did not believe that never bearing a child was a negative and shameful existence but instead allowed her to be committed to the service of God in the Temple. Worshipping God was her life and her life’s ambition. For her faithfulness, she was rewarded to see the “clean heart and right spirit” which was coming into Jerusalem. As the heart goes, so goes the body. It is this way for a person as well as it is for a people. Who better than Anna, apart from Jesus of course, would know of the lingering death which was infesting the Temple. Who better than Anna, who had lived in the Temple for maybe sixty years, to see the glory of the Temple change from glowing to lackluster. Who better than Anna, who probably knew the young girl, Mary, in her own service in the temple during her years up to the age of 14, to now knew what she had seen was true. There was a hope. There was a truth. There was the movement of God to bring new life out of the old. It was no longer a longing for but a reality realized in the here and now.
And Anna was not alone. She knew of others who shared the same hope for the revitalization of Israel beginning in Jerusalem in the Temple. Tired of the moneychangers and the leadership who conducted business for their own welfare first before that of the people of God and most especially before that of the One True God, others knew the old ways could not be sustained nor sustainable. They knew the history of the prophets who in their day saw the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple because of faithlessness and unrighteousness. But, they felt incapable of effecting change. They waited. Now, they had to wait no longer. The move was on to redeem what had been lost and make new what had been allowed to lie fallow. The seed had been planted and was now beginning to sprout into the full measure and stature of the love of God in one who would love God perfectly. And as we celebrate another “day of Christmas” in our move to embracing Epiphany, the life in us should leap for joy just as John did when Mary and the newly conceived Jesus spoke into the house where he was found. Anna leapt for joy and danced throughout the temple sharing the good news of a great joy. Are we dancing through life now? Are we proclaiming the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords? Are we seizing upon the truth that God is making good on His promise to redeem His people out of death and bring them back into true life beginning right here in our very own homes and houses of worship? Revival begins here and now! As the psalmist David declared “…and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life” so too should we!
Father, how grateful we are for this new life that You have offered to us in Jesus. We claim Him as our own and commit ourselves into His service to show how great a love there can be if we but trust in God with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. AMEN.