Anna - waiting for God
We're thinking today about Anna.
She was 84. She had been married for 7 years, then widowed, and since then she had lived in the temple
I suspect people thought she was mad.
She has lived in the temple many years. Let’s assume that she got married at 15 and her husband died 7 years later. She probably did not have children. Since then, for 62 years, she has lived in the temple courts. It was a big area, and no doubt she found a quiet corner where she could sleep. And she would have been dependent on the gifts of others.
She worships there; she prays and fasts.
She waits for God to come and set his people free.
Most people would say, “what a wasted life”.
Some of you may have heard of a Samuel Beckett play called Waiting for Godot, in which Vladimir and Estragon sit around waiting for someone called Godot, who never appears.
And here is Anna, waiting for ‘the redemption of Israel’, waiting for God.
Is she a Vladimir and Estragon? A bummer wasting her life.
Or is she something more?
Luke certainly thinks that she is much more.
He describes Anna as a prophet: someone who speaks the words of God to her generation.
And someone whose lifestyle speaks as loud as her words
We need people like Anna
She reminds us that life is not about buying and selling, it is not about stuff, it is not about sex, it is not about status.
She makes us question what life is all about.
Is it really just about passing exams, getting a good job, finding a life partner, getting married or having children?
Is it really about seeking to be famous or rich or powerful or beautiful or even just plain comfortable?
And what happens when death steps in? Either the death of one we love or our own death?
You see, if we are prepared to look and listen, people like Anna can help us glimpse another world.
Anna longed for God and the things of God.
She delighted in God.
She was like the Psalmist who said, ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of the wicked’ (Psalm 84:10)
And Anna hoped in God.
She waited for the redemption of Jerusalem: when God would step onto the scene of human history and set people free from sin and death.
There are many Annas: people who - whether because of a tragedy or a significant life event, or an encounter with God - have been forced to think through what it is all about, and have chosen to turn their backs on the world for the sake of God.
One of the people you may have heard of is blessed Xenia of St Petersburg. She lived in the C19th. She was a bit like Anna. Widowed at the age of 26, she abandoned her former way of life, sold all that she had and for 45 years, usually wearing her late husband’s uniform, she lived as a ‘fool for Christ’.
She wandered through the poor section of Petersburg with no place to lay her head. When people did give to her, she gave to others.
And she devoted her life to God. When they were building a church in the Smolensk cemetery, she brought bricks to the building site. But she did so at night so that no one would see her.
Perhaps she also was just an eccentric.
Or maybe, like Anna, and maybe like many others who have turned their backs on the neon lights of the world for the fire of God, she had discovered that we don’t need to live for this world or for the things of this world, but we can live for that world.
Perhaps, like Anna, she had discovered that a longing for God and for the things of God can trump all longings that this world offers.
Godot never turns up and Vladimir and Estragon continue their futile waiting.
But Anna gives us hope.
Anna takes the baby Jesus in her arms and realised that here was the one she was waiting for. And although nothing was going to happen for at least 30 years, by which time she would be well dead, she knew that here was the one for whom she had been waiting.
He was the one who would set people free from sin and death.
He was the one who would, one day, - and we still wait for this - bring in the Kingdom of God in its fullness
And she speaks of it to whoever will listen.
And she praises God.