Tucked away in the grand panorama of the Christmas story is a little old lady by the name of Anna. She is called a prophetess who had been a widow for many, many years. Her life was spent in the temple, where she practiced acts of worship and piety. It is telling that the Bible says she worshipped day and night.
When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple following His birth, they were met first by Simeon, a grand old priest of God. But immediately afterward, they encountered Anna. Anna was then 84 years old. While I cannot prove my point, I would suggest it is clear by her reaction to the baby Jesus that she had spent much of her time fasting and praying for the Messiah to come.
The Bible records the divine moment of her recognition of the Christ child in these words: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Her years of praying and longing for the Messiah had been brought to fruition before her very eyes. She had the privilege to look into the face of the child who would become the Deliverer of Jerusalem, her people and all who would follow Him.
I can only wish that we could step back into that moment with Anna. Her heart must have leaped out of her chest. Every prophecy and every night spent on her face before Jehovah had now become reality. The Messiah had come!
Her reaction was in keeping with her practice of worship. She expressed thanks to God for the Deliverer who had now come. I suspect her thanksgiving was an overflow of years of waiting. I have a feeling her words of thanksgiving were not quiet or short lived. She had seen the Messiah. Thanks be to God!
Her next action corresponded with that of anyone who meets the Messiah. She could not wait to find people with whom to share the exciting news. She wanted all to know that the long awaited Messiah had been born and was now present with them. The manger in Bethlehem held the Deliverer, and, just as the angel had said to Mary and Joseph, He would set His people free from the bondage of sin.
Anna sets a good pattern for those of us who know and love the Christ of Christmas. Our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving to God for His indescribable gift. As we sing the carols and join in corporate worship, our voices should be raised in joyful and glad praise to God for sending Jesus to this world. Our private devotions should resound with glorious adoration of Jesus the Messiah.
Above all, the normal traffic patterns of our lives should be filled with glad testimony to everyone we meet that Jesus of Christmas is the Savior of all who turn to Him in faith. It is not enough to worship Him. Worship should be followed by testimony of the reality of the child in the manger. He is no ordinary baby—He is the hope of the world.
It is easy to go through Christmas with our heads buried in the minutiae that demand our attention. There are presents to buy and meals to cook. Parties, concerts and family gatherings dominate our time. But if we, like Anna, stop to think of the remarkable experience of meeting the Christ child, we cannot go through this season without declaring our testimony of His transforming power in our lives.
So rejoice! Worship! Give thanks! But by all means, go tell the good news that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem!
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.