There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36–38
If your life was described in four short sentences, what would they say?
Luke distills eighty-four years into this one powerful vignette about Anna.
Vivid, finely drawn, emotionally taut, we see her like a Rembrandt figure in the language.
The first thing we are told is who she really is: a prophetess. But, in case we miss this fact—distracted by hunched shoulders, rags, the wrinkles on her skin—we are also shown her being this:
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna doesn’t take the baby in her arms or engage the parents as Simeon had (see Luke 2:25–35). She did in that very moment what she had spent her whole life doing: talking to God about people and to people about God.
Between these glimpses of firm identity, we see a whole life stretched out before us. Having been told she is a prophetess, the next thing we learn is this: Anna is displaced—she does not belong.
From the tribe of Asher, Anna’s home was among the Northern tribes, not Jerusalem. Her voice didn’t fit; her life didn’t fit. Seven years of marriage and a lifetime of loss. Well-kept widows remarried, or lived on the good of families, tribes, and fathers—like Phanuel. In a touch, we see she is not where she should have been. Anna is alone in the temple in the place where widows go when they have nowhere else to go.
The temple was a building site. Anna prayed to the sound of the hammer and the rough talk of burly men. All around her, Herod constructed his kingdom so that his four sentences would include “The Greatest Builder of the Jews.”
Anna: waiting for a kingdom she couldn’t see.
Into this, Jesus came. And in the light of him, we see Anna’s tragic life in an ugly place transformed—fulfilled; complete—in the right place at the right time.
Four short sentences and Luke shows us the gospel in its entirety. We have been told that Jesus is the saviour. But in case we miss this fact—distracted by tiny fingers, rags, vulnerable newborn skin—we are also shown him being this in Anna.
What will your four sentences be?