We Proclaim Jesus.
Dear Friends and Family in Christ,
I thank the Lord my God for giving His believing people another incredible opportunity to celebrate the Birth of His Blessed and Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, I count it a great privilege and pleasure to be chosen, consecrated, cherished by God, and called to be part of His family.
For this year's celebration of GOD'S GREATEST GIFT to mankind, that is, God, actually becoming man in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit led to ponder His inspired words in Luke 2:36-38. Oh what a simple yet significant account of the Christmas story! It is often passed over during the Christmas Season. Yet, it is a story that vividly and visually illustrates a life of triumph in tragedy at the First Christmas. From this story we learn this important spiritual principle: Through the Holy Spirit's presence and power, the believer in Jesus Christ can overcome personal tragedy to live a triumphant and thriving life to the glory of God.
As I prayed and pored over this passage of triumph in tragedy, I have been blessed to learn that God invited different kinds of people to His First Christmas Party! He invited the wise, the rich, the poor, the young, the old, and the hurting. Anna represented the old and hurting. Her circumstances in life were difficult and distressing. Life dealt her a bitter blow. But her life wonderfully portrays a remarkable of what it means to triumph in tragedy. The account of the Christmas story involving the old and godly Anna, who was given the joy of encountering the "God-Man" at the First Christmas, begins with the Bible's PERSONAL DESCRIPTION OF ANNA. "And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband sever years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty four (Luke 2;36-37a). What a tender and touching personal description of Anna! Her personal name "Anna" is the same as Old Testament "Hannah." It means "gracious" or "favor." Like Simeon, Anna was a member of the faithful remnant of Israel, who was eagerly looking for God's redemption. She was a prophetess whose paternal lineage was clearly identified as "Phanuel," which means "face of God." The particular tribe she descended from, "Asher" is also revealed to us. This is significant. "Asher," which means "happy," was part of the northern kingdom which had gone into Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. The tribes making up the northern kingdom are often called "the lost tribes of Israel." But please mark this well! As far as God is concerned there are "no lost tribes of Israel." In a few vivid words, the Bible also speaks of Anna profound personal tragedy. It is a moving one. She lost her husband after only seven years of marriage. All her dreams of having a "happy" married life (remember, she is from the "happy" tribe of Israel), of raising a family, of serving the Lord together with her husband were abruptly shattered.
Yet in the midst of living with her shattered dreams, the Bible points us to an important lesson from Anna's life. But you ask: what is that lesson? It is the PERSEVERANCE OF ANNA. Oh how I love Anna! She distinguished herself as a woman of persevering devotion to Lord her God. Few, are the people in the Bible whose persevering devotion to God, is described in these intense and insightful words: "She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers" (Luke 2:37b). You see, when we experience personal tragedy in our lives, our natural tendency is to give up on life or on God. But those who triumph in tragedy don't quit on life or on God. Rather, in the power of the Holy Spirit, they persevere in their devotion to God. They steadfastly pursue God. They press in on God. This is what Anna did in her life. She spent her waking hours attending and worshiping the Lord her God in the temple. Please understand that her persevering devotion to God was her way expressing, enriching, and enjoying her intimate personal relationship with God. It was not a mere ritual for her. Actually, her perseverance is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. In Isaiah 62:6-7, we read: "On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth." As a prophetess, Anna was not only fully aware of this prophecy, but in reliance upon the Spirit, she faithfully lived out its fulfillment to the praise of God's glory. Oh what an awesome example Anna is to us! She gave no rest to herself and gave God no rest. That is true perseverance. In fact, she was the ideal widow described in 1 Timothy 5:5.
Perhaps the most touch and tender lesson the Spirit impressed upon my heart from this story is learning about the PASSION OF ANNA. You see, Anna had known sorrow and sadness, and yet she had not grown bitter. She did not blame God for the tragedy in her life. She simply committed herself to giving thanks to God. The Bible shares this about her life of thankfulness: "At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God" (Luke 2:38a). What a special and sweet moment it was for Anna to lay her eyes on the Christ-Child! God rewarded her persevering devotion to Him with the blessed insight of recognizing His Son at the First Christmas. As such, Anna's heart overflowed with gratitude to God. In describing her thanksgiving, Dr. Luke, the inspired writer, used a rare and rich word: "anthomologeomai." This is the only time this word is used in the Greek New Testament. It also means "praise," "publicly express thanks," "to acknowledge fully," "to celebrate fully in praise with thanksgiving." The here is that Anna's passion in life had become one of celebrating God fully in praise with thanksgiving. Her passion in life had become one of publicly expressing thanks to God. God used the trials in Anna's life to shape and strengthen her faith in Him. Perhaps, during this special joyous season, your heart is filled with sorrow and sadness due to a loss of a loved one or loss of your health, or job. Perhaps you find yourself in difficult and desperate circumstances. Instead of throwing in the towel, through the Holy Spirit, you too can develop a passion of giving thanks to God in your trials and triumph in your tragedy, whatever it may be. The psalmist said, "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God" (Psalm 50:23). Anna was shown the salvation of God in the Christ-Child at the First Christmas. And her experience can be yours as well. God may be using your trials to make you "taller" in your trust in Him and more thankful in your trials.
I truly like how Anna's story of triumph in tragedy ends. It ends on a climatic and colorful note. In a brief but blessed way, the Bible speaks of the PROCLAMATION OF ANNA. She knew that it's not so much about her, but about the Messiah. She wanted the generations to come to know that her legacy was one of exalting and promoting the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so we read these lovely and life-impacting words: "and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38b). Please notice very carefully that her proclamation was centered on Jesus. Her commitment to the proclamation of Christ is the crowning moment in her story of triumph in tragedy. As we noted earlier, Anna's passion was publicly expressing thanks to God. But her life's mission had become one of telling others about Jesus. Anna spent the remaining days of her life speaking with great conviction and confidence about the Messiah. Like the shepherds and old Simeon, Anna was among the first to bear witness to Jesus. Although she was advanced in years, she had never lost her hope of seeing the Messiah. Having been given the glorious privilege of beholding the Beloved Christ, she could not help, but speak of Him to the remnant faithful; who were eagerly expecting the redemption of Jerusalem-the holy city of God's chosen people. But here Jerusalem stands for Israel as a whole. You see, Anna walked the walk and also talked the talk. Anna didn't join "a widow's support group" to talk about her trials of widowhood. She simply committed herself to speaking of Jesus and Him alone. Has God graciously revealed Jesus to you? Has God opened your eyes to recognize that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life? If so, it's now your turn and my turn to speak of Jesus and confidently assert that He alone is God's perfect solution to our sin problem. During this special season, let's rely on the Holy Spirit to walk the walk. But let's also make sure we talk the talk. Let's share the Good News to a lost and dying world around us. Our world is filled with tragedy today. Death and destruction are around us as wars are being waged in many parts of the world. Many are distressed, discouraged, depressed, disillusioned, and despairing of life. They need to see that through Jesus Christ, they too can experience triumph in tragedy.
With much love in Christ,
Joseph Ametepe, a bond-servant of Jesus!