Welcome to #ccdaAdvent.
CCDA invites you to consider what the hope of Advent meant for the women who were a pivotal part of Jesus’s birth. Join us in a communal reflection on the very real ways Jesus’s birth and incarnation required an unexplainable hope during a season of waiting and darkness.
Each devotional will include a reflection, breath prayer, art, and worship. We pray that the reflections and prayers within these Advent devotionals bring renewed inspiration, anticipation, and hope in the Kingdom of God that has come and is to come. Amen.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a 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 worshiped 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 looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
-Luke 2:36-38 (NRSV)
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
-Isaiah 7:14 (NRSV)
Devotional written by: Nilwona Nowlin, CCDA Writing Team
Years ago, I often wrote and preached about how society in the U.S. has slowly but surely taken on a microwave mentality – and how Christians were not immune to this mindset. We’d shifted from a society in which even the innovative convenience of a frozen TV dinner still had to be prepared in the oven to one in which we could microwave a meal in mere minutes. And in 2021, many microwaves are collecting dust as we’ve become enamored with air fryers. But I digress. In those articles and sermons, I’m pretty sure I extolled the virtues of the likes of Joseph the Dreamer, who had to wait about 13 years to see the fulfillment of his promise from God. His is a good example of waiting patiently, right? But if I really wanted to bring the point home, I would play the Abraham and Sarah card. Forget 13 years, they waited 25 years – almost three decades – to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to them! As I reflected on the passage for this week’s Advent post, I realized that even Abraham and Sarah’s 25 years was a drop in the bucket when it comes to the waiting game.
Luke 2 introduces us to Anna the prophetess. We don’t know much about her, but what we do know is very telling. Anna was from the tribe of Asher, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. She’d married young, probably around 14 years old, which was the custom. After 7 years of marriage, her husband died. For reasons we don’t know, instead of remarrying, Anna remained a widow. Most translations say that Anna was a widow until she was 84, but there are scholars who suggest that the original Greek described her as being a widow for 84 years and more likely 105 at the time she saw the baby Jesus in the temple.
As a member of the twelve tribes of Israel, Anna would have grown up hearing the prophecy recited, talked about and prayed for the promised Messiah. At the age of somewhere between 84 and 105, Anna had likely been waiting for the Messiah for at least 6 or 7 decades.
But collectively, the Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah for literally hundreds of years! At this point, it had to feel more like a folktale than a prophecy. One could understand if she had lost hope. Or maybe she hoped for it but didn’t hold her breath while waiting – in other words, she hoped but assumed hers would be another generation to die without seeing the prophecy fulfilled. Yet, she fasted, prayed and praised God faithfully. In one moment, she went from praying for the Messiah to come to praising the arrival of the Messiah. That is where we are today.
We continue to wait for the second coming of Christ and cry out, “O come, o come, Emmanuel.” Yet, we celebrate his first coming and sing, “O come let us adore him, Emmanuel.” Sometimes, the wait seems so long, maybe even futile. As we try to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God, we encounter obstacle after obstacle. Maybe we begin to wonder if it’s even possible. Why even try?? But when I realized just how long the Israelites had been actively waiting for the Messiah, I wondered, “Can you imagine waiting hundreds of years for something?!” Immediately, I was reminded that my ancestors did just that. Generation after generation after being kidnapped and enslaved, they hoped amid despair. I am here because of that hope. The paradox of Advent is that I lift my eyes to the heavens in anticipation, but I also kneel down to worship and adore Emmanuel, God with us.
How do we keep hope alive from generation to generation in a wholistic way? Go deeper with our workshop here: Wholistically Discipling the Next Generation of Leaders