“Patience Needed”

Nov 14, 2021

The Scripture

Luke 2: 1-40

2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,  praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”  15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

 

The Sermon

Like last week, the passage read this morning seems out of place. It is in the wrong church season!  And also, like last week, the person who is our “Face of our Faith,” is in the periphery, almost an afterthought to the main event.  But she is anything but insignificant and even though she is cited in only 3 verses in the entire bible, she has a powerful message to us today.  Our focus today is on Anna the Prophetess.

It’s easy to see how Anna could be missed, her part goes by very quickly.  And the central focus in this chapter is on the birth of Jesus.  As hard as it is to not to remain at the manger, let’s turn our eyes to Anna. Now that I have read it multiple times what really caught my eye was when scripture says, “she never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.”  We’re not talking about a few days, or weeks or even months. We’re talking about years…year after year after year Anna remains in the Temple praying and fasting. Most of all she must have been a patient person!

Anna reminds me of someone I remember visiting when I was a chaplain at the rehab hospital. Every morning when I would enter her room, she would be sitting in her wheelchair praying…praying the rosary…and praying for whatever burdened her heart. She was very soft spoken, when she spoke it was like she was whispering, and I would have to lean in close to her and give her my full attention so I could hear her. I’ll never forget this woman, even though I can’t tell you her name, I can’t even remember what brought her to the hospital, but I can tell you her story…it is a story that lives inside of me. A story now that will live inside of you! She talked about her son who was very troubled. He had difficulty holding down a job, making one bad decision after another moving from place to place. She was so burdened by his struggles. She talked about how she prayed and prayed for him. Year after year and nothing seemed to change. But she said “I never lost hope…just kept praying.” And then she said, “years later my son met a wonderful woman and they fell in love and that love changed my son!”  Her son’s future was now seen through the eyes of love. His life was redeemed!

This mother recognized the very presence and movement of God in her life.  For the prophetess Anna it was the same kind of awareness of God’s presence. Her connection to God was strong and intimate. Anna prayed and prayed day after day, and I can’t help but wonder if this bond with God is what gave her the patience to wait, and also the insight to recognize the divinity of Jesus. One commentator said this, “Unlike Simeon, who knew he would find the Messiah, Anna simply recognized the Lord. After decades and decades in the Temple, seeing people coming and going with their sacrifices every day, she had the vision to recognize that one young couple and their child were unlike any of the others.”

Anna, like all the other “Faces of Our Faith,” has become a teacher for us in our own faith journeys. Anna teaches us that patience is needed in our faith lives. There were many, many days when she prayed without seeing. Praying does not speed up God’s answer to us.  I think sometimes we do think we can control God’s timing…if I just pray a little longer, maybe more often, maybe if we pray a different way, use different words…oh but no, praying is quite possibly less about results than about connection!  Anna also teaches us that praying keeps the connection strong, giving insight and wisdom to know and be a part of God’s plan. And finally Anna teaches us that patience, prayer and connection leads us into the pure joy of praising God and being a voice of hope for the future yet unknown. 

We too can find this connection to God, perhaps some quiet time and moments of isolation could help, and Anna lets us know age is not a limiting factor. God is just waiting to reveal to each one of us the insights and wisdom needed to be voices of hope for a world hungry and yearning to know the living Christ. Be that voice!  Amen