June - 2016. Anna, daughter of Phanuel

Anna, daughter of Phanuel


The Gospel of Luke has been called the Gospel of Womanhood, the word 'woman' appears forty-nine times in Matthew and Mark, yet in Luke alone forty-three times, almost as many times as the other two together.  The pages of this Gospel are filled with figures of women.

In the story of the Incarnation we have the Virgin Mary, maiden and saintly mother; we have her cousin, Elizabeth the saintly wife, to whom she turns for consolation in her hour of joy and trouble; we have Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, the saintly widow.  Each one of these women, in her own way, bears witness to the gospel of saintly womanhood that has now come into the world.

Who was Anna?  A woman who had been married for seven years, and now widowed, she had reached the age of eighty-four.  She was an old lady with a reason for living.  An old lady with a reason to get up in the morning, and that reason was that, in spite of her age, she knew God still had work for her to do.

In one parish I lived in I used to talk to three old men, or maybe four, who sat on a bench in fine weather.  They  weren't the same three or four old men because one after another they would die, but there was always another to fill the bench.  Why did they sit there?  They simply had nothing else to do except 'watch the world pass them by.'

Now Anna spent her day in the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day.  She was sustained by a great hope to which she looked forward.  She looked forward in hope, and to a hope which was fulfilled when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple 'to present him to the Lord.'  For this she gave 'thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.'

Three verses and we hear no more about her - or do we?  I wonder if St. Paul hadn't heard of her when he wrote, 'She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day...' (1 Timothy 5.5).  Anna was the prototype of this widow, and was ready, spiritually, to do the work of God, when her time arrived.  Because of women like Anna a remnant of godly people were there to welcome the Messiah when 'he came suddenly into his temple.'  An old lady, she was among the first to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eight-four, and still praying.  There was no spiritual retirement for Anna, but isn't it easy for us to develop into 'spiritual pensioners?'  It's so easy to say 'we've done our bit, it's time for the young ones to take over.'  Not at all.  It's time for the young ones to move in, and for the older ones to move over, but God always has something for us to  make it worth while us getting up in the morning.  When it comes to our walking the pilgrims' way to God, caring for his world in prayer, worshipping the Lord, there's no retirement.  Yes, our abilities change, but we're never too old, too disabled, too disillusioned, too poor or too lowly to work for the Lord.

All those excuses we have which allow us to cease working in the Lord's harvest field are really not true.  Serving the Lord is just living each day as a Christian, and taking whatever chance comes our way to proclaim the Lord, and to serve his people.

'And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel...she was of a great age, having lived....as a widow till she was eighty-four,...and coming at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.'

David Porter

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