Advent with Abstract: Hope

I imagine her sitting and praying quietly, her hands folded together in her lap. I imagine her thanking God for the day and for all of her days. I imagine her praying for those in the Temple and the community.

Her stomach growls, but she ignores it. It comes with the territory of fasting. Done praying, she gets up and moves around. At her age, she counts it a blessing every time she’s able to stand. She’s been doing this for years, and she feels it in her joints but not her heart. She sees the Temple is sort of busy today, and it makes her smile. She notices Simeon talking with a young couple and is compelled to walk towards them. She is both curious and obedient. She smiles at the parents but is quickly overjoyed by the child.

She knew in an instant. It could’ve been the softness of the baby’s face or the way he smiled. Maybe it was how he looked at her because she knew someone had looked at her out of love like that before. Somehow, she knew.

Anna knew she was looking at the Messiah.

Out of the whole Bible, we only have three verses with Anna, Luke 2:36-39. In those verses, we find out she’s the widowed prophet daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher who fasted, prayed, and never left the Temple.

I want to give Anna her moment in the spotlight here (although I feel sure she’d ask me not to) because I don’t think Anna gets enough credit or recognition. She was widowed for most of her life, and she was completely fine with it. All she wanted or needed was God; she didn’t even leave the Temple anymore by the time we meet her. She was always seeking God more and more. She was a prophet, which would’ve been remarkable for a woman in a Greco-Roman society. Evidently her family was so well known that Luke felt the need to sort of say, “Phanuel, tribe of Asher? That’s his daughter.”

Anna was so distinguished and devout, but she was also hopeful. The last we see or hear of Anna, she’s telling everyone who was eagerly waiting for God to save Jerusalem that she’d seen the face of their salvation. No one would do that if he or she weren’t also expectant and hopeful.

God’s people found themselves oppressed (again) and looking for a savior. They knew the prophecies, and they were ready for someone to come and fulfill the old words and free them. Anna was blessed enough to look the rescue squad in the eyes as he yawned and cooed.

As I see it, we’re also held down, although not like the Jewish people were. We’re enslaved by our flesh and thoughts, oppressed by our addictions and habits, under the thumb of our desires. It’s captivity masquerading as freedom.

Our true hope and freedom lay in the same place as the Jews’ did: Jesus.

No matter what sort of destruction you’re in, Jesus can remove it from you. The history you have with it, the pain it causes you, the grip it has on you as it tries to pull you back down – none of that stands up to Jesus and wins. It doesn’t even compare. He’s the freedom to walk away from bitterness. He’s the hope that it really will get better. He’s the promise that the future is brighter and better than we could imagine. He’s the hope that all former things pass away.

When Anna saw Jesus, she saw her years of praying and fasting, years of hearing skeptics and comforting believers paying off. She saw what she’d been hoping for.

What does hope look like to you? A reconciled family or a new addition to the family? Maybe it’s a date on the calendar marked “one year clean today” or a check with your name on it made out for just the amount you need to get by. It could be an acceptance letter or a call for an interview. What do you see when you think of hope?

Whatever you see, it’s just the surface. It’s the form hope takes, not the hope itself. If we look harder, we’ll see the hope is Jesus. Anna didn’t see just any baby. She saw who the baby was. She saw hope manifested as a baby. Don’t look at your hope as just any blessing or gift. Look at it as where your longing and expectancy meets Jesus’ love.

By Carrie Prevette

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