Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Today’s Topic: Be Content
Today’s Text: Luke 2:36-37 (ESV)
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
We are easily bored. We even have statements that validate our boredom. I have a friend who when asked how he is always responds with the statement, “You know…same old same old.”
We have a hard time with things staying status quo. Even though we find it hard to change, we demand it. We don’t like permanent routine. Some persevere longer than others when sameness reigns, but ultimately they surrender to the discontented spirit that lives in each of us that wants things new and better.
I speak as the king of discontent. I love new things. I love change. I love risk. I want more and better. I have never truly learned to be content. That’s why the story of Anna from the Christmas narrative in Luke 2 fascinates me.
Anna was an ordinary woman with a tragic life story. She had been married at a young age, probably around sixteen as was customary. After seven years of marriage her husband died and left her a widow. She was left with nothing. Jewish law forbids women from owning property. If her husband had any wealth it would have been given to the first-born son, but there is no indication that they had any children. She was alone with nowhere to turn.
She went to the temple in an act of humble submission to whatever God would provide for her, and a willingness to be content with it. The priests took her in and opened up one of the living quarters in the courtyard to her, where she lived for the next sixty-eight years. Every day and every night she did the very same thing – she prayed and fasted before the Lord.
There is no way of knowing how many people were touched by her faithful service in the temple and her patient endurance of a sub-par lifestyle when compared to others. Other widows, like Ruth of the Old Testament, were rescued from their predicament by a kinsman redeemer who brought them hope and security. But it was not so for Anna. No relative came forward to provide her a home and a family. She was alone.
But Anna never felt alone because she knew she wasn’t really alone. She had God, and He was sufficient. She was content with God’s presence and His provision for her life. Nothing ever changed. Nothing ever got better. She was never offered more. Day after day the status quo ruled, and yet the same old same old never really got old, because she lived her life with the assurance and hope of the coming Messiah who would redeem Jerusalem.
Then one day, in a powerful affirmation of her contentment, God arranged her life and His Son’s life to intersect. My imagination turns to the scene in heaven, where God points to what is taking place in the temple and enthusiastically exclaims to His angels, “Watch this!”
Anna is walking across the temple courtyard, worshipping the Lord and looking for an opportunity to minister to someone. She sees a commotion in the area where little Jewish boys are brought for their circumcision. A man who was not a priest is holding a baby and loudly proclaiming words of prophecy about the Messiah. She immediately walks over to investigate, and is instantly overwhelmed with the reality that she is looking at the Redeemer of Jerusalem.
Heaven explodes with cheers of Hallelujah.
Anna gives thanks to God and begins a new phase of life in which she will proclaim redemption to anyone who wants to hear it.
God rewards contentment with His presence. I wonder if Anna felt it was worth the wait.
But I also wonder if our lack of contentment is keeping us from fully experiencing His presence.