New year usually comes with a mixture of excitement and pain. For some a new year means new prospects. New opportunities. For others it is a fearful unknown and sometimes the pain of the previous year or years looms larger as we draw near the end of the year.
One of the lesser known stories associated with Christ’s nativity is that of Anna.
After forty days Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem so that they could offer the sacrifice for Mary’s purification. While they were there they met two people. One was Simeon and the other was Anna.
Luke 2.36-38 tells us that Anna had been married at one point in her life. After seven years of marriage, her husband had died and she decided to spend the rest of her days praying and worshipping and waiting for Messiah. The Bible tells us that when she met Jesus she was eighty-four years old. That means she had probably been a widow for over sixty years. Sixty years of worshipping. Sixty years of waiting. Sixty years of seeing thousands of families bring their child to the temple to offer the appropriate sacrifice. And then one day she sees Messiah.
I’m sure as a young woman Anna dreamt of being married and having her own children. Of living to an age when she could enjoy her grandchildren as well. But it was never to be. Tragedy came. How easy it would have been for Anna to become locked into the disappointment and grief of the untimely death of her husband and spend the rest of her life looking back! But she didn’t. Anna turned her pain into prayer – and worship. The loss of her potential future caused her to fix her focus on God’s promised future. And for sixty years she kept looking.
Whatever this last year has brought, good or bad, Anna’s life reminds us that hope can prevail, even when we suffer big setbacks. Even when we experience great pain. Even when our future seems to have been snatched from us. And hope in God and His word can sustain for years and years to come.
As we end one year and begin a new one, may the example of Anna give us encouragement, and, in the words of Paul “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15.13)