Luke 2:36-40

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.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:36-40

Simeon wasn’t the only “oldster” in the temple that day. Anna was also a wonderfully faithful person who was blessed to receive Jesus with joy and praise to God. It is what she did next that sets her apart.

She freely shared what she believed with all who had ears to hear. She connected Jesus with the redemption of Jerusalem.

“Redemption” is a powerful word. In Jesus’ day, the word referred to the price that had to be paid to purchase a slave’s freedom. But that meaning was lost along the way. I only remember “redemption” being used to redeem coupons or get something with the stamps you collected at the grocery store.

But for the people of Israel, with memories long enough to include slavery in Egypt, slavery in Babylon, and now slavery under the Romans, redemption meant freedom, a second chance, the possibility of a new life. Soon Luke will help us see that this was at the heart of Jesus’ mission.

We read all of this at a strange time in our lives. The people who most publicly witness to others about Jesus invite people into a spiritual life that looks more like bondage than freedom. More exclusive than inclusive. More legalistic than loving. A faith that reduces the faith to politically powerful talking points.

The truth is, we all need to be redeemed. We all live in the grip of that which enslaves us. Anything that tells us that we’re not good enough, that we’re not worthy, holds us in slavery. Anything that we do, or that is done to us, that coats us with shame, holds us in bondage.

Our self-righteous attitudes, our inability to listen to others, our unwillingness to face the facts of life, our subservience to tribe over truth – all of this steals our freedom and blunts our ability to bear witness to the God who loves us as we are and continually shapes us toward being who we can be.

“Jesus Loves Me” needs another verse. Maybe one like this:

Jesus loves you, this I know,

And its through my life I’ll show,

Jesus came to set us free,

I’ll love you and you love me.”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, the song of Anna now joins the chorus of all who find in you the freedom to be who you created us to be. May your favor rest on us that we too might gain the wisdom to bear witness of your love to all who find themselves in bondage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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