Saturday (December 30): "Anna recognized the coming of Christ and gave thanks to God"

Meditation: Where do you place your trust and hope for a life of peace, freedom and happiness? Scripture tells us that those who place their trust in God will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23, Psalm 62:8, Proverbs 3:5-6). In every age, God has placed in the hearts of his people, from the descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, the prophets, and King David, a longing and a hope for a Redeemer who will bring us God's kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness. We see the great unfolding of God's plan of redemption in the birth of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God before all ages, who became a man to redeem his people from sin and oppression.

The long expected newborn Messiah is presented in the Temple at Jerusalem
Luke the Evangelist records the coming of the Christ child (God's Anointed Messiah) to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:22-24). Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus with them to the temple to fulfill the Jewish ceremony, recorded in the law of Moses, for the "redemption of the firstborn child" (Exodus 3:2) and the ritual purification of the mother after childbirth (Leviticus 12:2-8). As Joseph and Mary presented their offering and dedicated the child Jesus in the temple, Anna, a godly woman of great age (84 years) who was filled with the Holy Spirit immediately recognized that this child was the promised Messiah and heir to the throne of David. She publicly "gave thanks to God and spoke of him [who is the Christ - the Anointed Messiah] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

Anna's persevering hope and reward of seeing Christ face to face
What is the significance of Anna's witness and prophetic proclamation of the Messiah's coming to his temple? Luke calls Anna a prophetess because she had dedicated her life to the service of God's word through prayer and fasting. Like Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) and all the prophets of the Old Testament, she was attentive to God's word and she spoke prophetically - under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - to others of God's plan of salvation for his people. She spent her days in the house of the Lord (the Temple) where she offered up daily prayers and intercession for her people.

Anna did not grow weary of placing her trust in God and his promises. Here hope and trust in God did not waver but grew with age.What enabled Anna to persevere for so many years and through difficult times, such as the loss of her husband, and through the trials of advancing old age? She never ceased to give thanks to God each and every day. She worshiped God in daily prayer, and with fasting and intercession on behalf of her people. And she never ceased to cling to God's word and to speak of his word to others to bring them encouragement and hope. She believed with hopeful expectation that she would one day see her Lord and Redeemer face to face. Anna is a model of persevering faith and hope to all who hunger for God and for his saving word.

The Holy Spirit renews our hope in the promise of God
Where do you place your hope? We can easily grow discouraged when trials and setbacks come our way, and we can grow cynical or give in to despair when failing health and advancing age rob us of our natural strength. Life's shortcomings and disappointments can either weigh us down or press us closer to God. The choice is ours - to rely on ourselves and our own strength or to put our trust wholly in God alone and in the grace and strength which he provides. Scripture reminds us that God gives us a (supernatural) hope beyond hope, a (divine) love stronger than death, and a (spiritual and unceasing) joy that no earthly sorrow or suffering can take away.
 
Is your hope in this present life only? The hope which God places in our heart is the desire and longing for a home and a kingdom of unceasing joy and happiness with God our Creator and Father. The Lord Jesus has won for us an enduring kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). The Holy Spirit who dwells in us renews and strengthens our hope day by day as we listen to God's word and believe in his promises. God never fails because his promises are true and he is faithful. The hope which God places within us through the gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to persevere with confident trust in God even in the face of daily trails, setbacks, and challenges that come our way.

The reward of seeking God's kingdom first
Is there anything holding you back from giving God your unqualified yes to his will and plan for your life? Allow the Lord Jesus to flood your heart with his peace, joy, and love. And offer to God everything you have and desire - your life, family, friends, health, and provision for the future. If you seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33), he will give you everything you need to know, love, and serve him now and to enjoy him forever in his everlasting kingdom of joy and peace.

"Lord Jesus, you alone are my hope and life. May I never cease to place all my trust in your unfailing love and mercy. Fill me with the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit that I may boldly point others to your saving presence and word of eternal life."

This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/