Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Anna and Advent Waiting

This Advent I am reading Stephen Cottrell's book 'Walking Backwards to Christmas'. It is written for those who thought they knew the Christmas story well. Each chapter has a key character telling the story from that person's point of view. The 'backwards' element is immediately apparent in the first chapter in which Anna the prophet tells her story.

Anna does not appear in the birth narratives until after Jesus' birth and the church usually remembers her story after Christmas. She was a faithful old woman who lived in Jerusalem and spent all her time in its temple. Along with Simeon she met baby Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought him for ritual observances after Jesus' birth. Her name is the Greek and Latin form of the Hebrew name 'Hannah' and means 'grace' or 'gracious'. 

Only 3 verses in Luke's gospel tell us something about Anna:
"There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer, night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were lookingfor the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke 2:36 - 38
There are enough clues there for imaginative story tellers to weave a fuller picture and still convey truth. Stephen Cottrell does this beautifully in his book. I especially like the way he describes how Anna waits each morning for the rising sun to cast its beams on a particular spot in the temple. In Hannah's voice he writes:
"I stretch out my hands; and though I know you cannot hold sunlight, you can feel it upon you. I close my eyes and wait simply to touch its presence - which isn't me touching at all, but being touched, held in warmth and light. I bathe in its luminescent brightness. And if I opened my eyes and looked up, why, I could be blinded. For I know that the brightest light comes to us as dazzling darkness." (pp. 4 - 5)
I have been thinking about Anna's story for a few days. Imagining myself in her shoes, waiting in darkness and longing. Here is my Advent reflection in her voice:


WILL IT BE TODAY?

Will it be today?
Oh, will it be today?

I have waited a lifetime
a long life wrestling
with despair and grief
threatening to quench
the hope that never dies.

I have mourned a lifetime
a long life seeing
the anxiety and pain
that once was mine
worn on other passing faces.

I have stayed a lifetime
a long life praying
by day and night
in this holy place,
where I wait in hope.

I have hoped a lifetime
a long life waiting
for the great Light of Hope
to dispel the darkness
and rise among us.

Will it be today?
Oh, will it be today?

Image Credit: Wikimedia, CC License

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