Women of Advent:
Anna, prophet of hope
God for us: a life of hope
There is one final woman that I want to highlight in this short series of reflections for Advent. She appears a little later in the story, after Jesus is already born.
Her name is Anna and in the story she is introduced as an older woman and a long-time widow. We know very little about her, except for this short encounter recorded in Luke’s Gospel. We do know that she is a prophet, serving God with fasting and prayer at the Temple. It is as she is going about her regular practice that she sees the baby Jesus accompanied by Mary and Joseph. In that moment, hope becomes tangible for Anna. It is found in the innocence and vulnerability of a baby. With the wisdom of a true prophet, she raises her voice and exalts God. She knows that God is at work in the world, and this to her is just another evidence of this truth. She, along with Simeon, becomes one of the first witnesses to the unique moving of God through the life and work of Jesus. Anna knew deep down in her being that God was for her, her people and the world—her declaration and actions were simply the outflow of her deep commitment to God’s redemptive promise.
I used to think of hope as an abstract commitment to an ideology. Hope was nothing more to me than a interior feeling that was sometimes present, and sometimes not. Now I understand hope to be a practice. It is way of moving through the world, seeing the reality of things as they are, and believing that it can also be different. It is seeing God in the tiny hands of a child, the cries of a refugee, and the hunger of the poor. It is acknowledging our racism, our hatred of those different to us, and the myriad of ways we fail to love ourselves and each other fully. Hope doesn’t dismiss reality; hope sees reality for what it is. So why then have hope when the world is so dark? Because hope knows that there is infinite potential for reality to change. Hope trusts that God wants to partner with the world and accepts God’s invitation to join in this vision—of making a world anew. Hope knows that suffering, evil, and death will not have the final word. Hope knows that God is for us, God will not abandon us, and God will finish the good work that was started. Hope steps out with a heart ablaze and hands committed to joining in this movement of God. Hope sees the darkness, but also knows that the light is coming.
Is this not what Advent is all about—the waiting in darkness for the light of the Christ to be revealed? This is why although Anna appears after Jesus’ arrival on the scene; she belongs here with the women of Advent. Anna spent her life faithfully waiting for the coming of Messiah, not idle in that waiting, but committed to the good of God and neighbor. Perhaps this is why she had eyes to see what others could not? May we have the courage to do the same.
Anna, prophet of God, we praise you for your dedication to the movement of God in the world and for boldly using your voice to proclaim redemption.
May we have the faith of Anna, lifting up our voices to praise God and declare with power the good news that God is redeeming the world. May we commit to living lives that like Anna are marked by hope. May we know deep in our flesh and bones, in our minds and in our hearts that God is for us. May this hope transform every ounce of our being, ever expanding and including others.
It is easy to lose hope. The hurts of the world are at times overwhelming. Find a tangible way to practice hope this week. Maybe you will volunteer an hour of your time somewhere that aligns with your values. Maybe you will make a donation to an organization that is meaningful to you. Maybe you will write a note of blessing to a friend or someone you admire to remind them to also practice hope. Whatever you choose, allow it to be an act of resistance and a reminder to yourself to cultivate the practice of hope.