Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Anna looked around the temple. It was practically her home. Scanning the outer court, she saw people...so many people...coming and going, bringing their sacrificial offerings to the priests. A lump formed in her throat as she watched a little boy with his father carry a lamb up the temple steps. The poor creature had no idea he was about to die for the sin in the family. Oh Jehovah, her heart prayed, there is so much death. There is so much bloodshed as we wait for the Messiah. It had been 400 years of silence since the prophet Malachi and all they could do was wait as, day by day, more animals were slain for the sins of Israel.
Amid the crowd, her eyes suddenly fastened upon a young man and woman carrying a newborn baby. She stood, transfixed, as the young woman cradled the baby gently and, in an instant, she knew. It was Him. She hurriedly approached the little family and her weary soul rejoiced as she gazed down at the sleeping baby wrapped tightly against His mother. Tears of thanksgiving spilled from her eyes. God's promise was before her, swaddled tight and smelling of milk and hay.
For many, the Christmas season is all gingerbread villages and Bing Crosby serenading us with "White Christmas." It's holly and jolly and merry and bright. But for others, it's a struggle at Christmastime to find joy when their lives are filled with regret or pain. My dad lost his grandfather on Christmas Day, so Christmas is always a bittersweet time for him. Some of my most painful memories are during the holidays and so approaching Christmas with joy can be difficult. However, what I love most about Christmas is the hope that the Christmas story brings to weary hearts. You see, the prophetess Anna knew sorrow. She had been married only seven years when she became a widow and she remained a window for the rest of her life. Anna likely understood shame, having had no children. She understood grief and her heart and body knew the familiar ache when she climbed in bed alone at the end of the day. Grief, sadly, is a necessary part of life but when we allow it to define us, we forego the opportunity to experience hope. And that is a far worse tragedy than the grief itself. This is where we can learn a lesson from Anna.
We all have experienced disappointments and devastating loss in some capacity and Anna knew those emotions well. However, instead of sinking into the quicksand of isolation or self-pity, wasting energy being consumed with thoughts of the past, Anna threw herself into the Lord's work. The book of Luke tells us that she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying (Luke 2:37). And her hope of one day seeing the Messiah did not make her ashamed (Romans 5:5) because she saw the Creator with her own eyes. Where is our heart and our hope when tragedy strikes? Do we lay our Bible to the side and question every promise we have ever read? Do we look at Christmas with nothing more than a cynical viewpoint of its commercialism instead of finding the age old majesty of the Gospel? Or do we, like Anna, pace our temple courts praying, worshiping, serving and waiting for Christ to appear? If all is stripped away, will we still be found in God's house with our spiritual eyes fastened to the door, eagerly awaiting His presence? No matter what problems or earthly sorrow we experience, Emmanuel has come and that truth should cause our soul to feel its worth and incite a thrill of hope in every heart.
For those who wrestle with holiday cheer, let Anna be an encouragement to you. Whether you are a single woman, a hurting widow, a lonely single mom, a worn out stay-at-home mom or a discouraged pastor's wife, your hope is in steadfastly serving the Lord. Years of silence may pass and you may shed enough tears to fill Galilee, but hold tight to the promise that He will come. Those in darkness can't see it, but every daughter of the light can. Keep looking for the King of Kings who, in all our trials was born to be our friend. That's where joy is. It's in the deep-settled thrill in the soul of a believer that knows hope is theirs. Because one day we, like Anna, will see the Savior. Only we won't see Him as a baby, we will see Him in all His might and power and we will sing sweet hymns of joy as we praise His holy name. If you need hope this Christmas season, you can find it in His promised presence and in the thrill that one day, there will dawn a new and glorious morning that will last for all eternity.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.