As a young child, I remember learning about the Christmas prophetic pair in the Gospel of Luke, Simon and Anna. Both were elated at Jesus’ arrival when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to present him to God. What struck me about Anna’s story was a sense of sorrow and regret. She had been widowed after only seven years into her marriage and spent most of her life worshipping, fasting, and praying at the temple (Luke 1:36-38). Why didn’t she get remarried? Was her grief too overwhelming? I wondered, Did she have children, or was she alone? Who took care of her in her old age? And the idea of fasting her whole life seemed more like a punishment than a chosen holy act. As an adult, I still am intrigued by these questions left unanswered by Luke, but I no longer feel sorry for Anna. Instead, I am captivated by what we do know about her life and motivated to follow her lead. Anna, not only a prophet, has become my teacher, too.
- The kingdom of God does not limit a person based on age.
One of the many things I love about God is how God does not set limitations on people in the same way we do. In the 21st century in the US, we are more likely to feel pity for our elders than to see them as a source of strength, wisdom, and guidance; they are a reminder of what is to come for ourselves, and their vulnerability makes us nervous, so we generally push them aside. Anna, regardless of her age, is at the forefront of the worship life for her community. She spends her days at the temple worshiping, presumably at the Court of Women. After meeting Jesus, Anna shares what he is about with others who were also looking for redemption. God sends Anna to spread the message of God’s extravagant love for us. At a time when Anna may be retiring from retirement, she is used powerfully. In the kingdom of God, it doesn’t matter if we’re imaginative children, wise sages, or something in between, God has a place for each of us and extends an invitation so that we might partner with God from season to season. The opportunities are endless as well as timeless.
- When you are about the things of God, you get to see the things of God.
Anna made prayer, worship, and fasting a priority in her life. Her spirit and heart were attuned to what God was doing around her. Because of this, she had the opportunity to see God’s plan for salvation in the flesh. What an incredible moment, to catch a glimpse of what would turn the world upside right and provide the way for us to connect with God directly and daily! Sometimes it’s easy to miss God because we’re not really looking for God. Deadlines, monotony, and even boredom has us wheezing through life and right past God. Prayer, worship, and fasting aren’t just spiritual disciplines to make us “look holy”; these things give us the opportunity to slow down and align our hearts and spirits with God. When we do this, we are ready to see the things of God because we are open to them. Prayer, worship, and fasting also help us to prioritize those deadlines and make space in our lives for God’s direction and, consequently, God’s blessings.
As I inch further and further away from that “college/young professional” age group, I can sense a tiny fear of irrelevance attempt to creep into my mind. I was never hip to begin with, and now I don’t even have youth on my side. I am practicing shaking it aside because, in the kingdom of God, the coolness factor just doesn’t factor; looking to Anna’s life, I can see that our place in God’s kingdom doesn’t have an expiration date. If I keep my heart and spirit focused on the One, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, I will get to see the things of God.
Movement Step: As we enter a new year, pray and ask God to show you what this next year can look like. What is your place in God’s kingdom? Then make a plan on how you can incorporate prayer, worship, and fasting in 2020 in order to prepare you for the place God has for you.