This is the fifteenth in our Advent series of reflections, written by pioneering youth workers…
As the nativity narrative draws to a close Luke brings in two new characters to the story, Simeon and Anna. Luke who is normally very detailed in his description of events seems to leave gaps in Anna’s story. He gives a brief description of who Anna is and her job description but unlike Simeon leaves gaps in her encounter with the Christ child.
The story of Anna challenges me personally in a couple of ways. Firstly she is easy to overlook and yet plays an important role along with Simeon she is the first to see and really understand the significance of who this child is. Mary was obedient but “perplexed” Luke 1:29 and “pondering” Luke 2:19 even later on when Jesus was aged twelve Mary and Joseph didn’t fully understand. Luke 2:50.
It is not only the brief mention that leaves Anna in danger of being overlooked, it is that she is old, she is a woman in a patriarchal society and from the Tribe of Asher one of the dispersed Tribes of the Northern Territories. The role she is given, or adopts, is one of quiet worship.
In re-visiting this story having just moved to a new community I recognise that I am in danger of overlooking or dismissing those with a calling different to mine. I confess I have dismissed the local churches as ageing congregations who are inward looking. Am I missing a Simeon or Anna? I have certainly not always given much thought and respect to the wisdom of years. There is also a Catholic community in a rural hamlet close to our town who dedicate their lives to prayer. As an activist I know that I can be cynical about such a calling and yet I need to learn from them how to be more attentive.
My second challenge is that unlike Simeon who is happy just to die safe in the knowledge that he has seen the Messiah, Anna springs into action as an evangelist speaking to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38. Perhaps like me you are wary of evangelism because of the inappropriate and at times abusive way that the Church has gone about it. Yet I am challenged again by Anna not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We have a radical, life changing story of liberty to share let’s not be afraid to share the story of the Incarnate God with sensitivity and respect.
By Barney Baron
Join us this advent.
Frontier Youth Trust is a home for pioneer youth workers. As part of our shared rhythm of life we have invited pioneers from within our community to contribute a reflection about a character from the nativity story. We will be posting these reflections throughout advent.
We invite you to journey with us and discover the story afresh.