. . . Anna, the daughter of Phanuel.

This past week, you’ve probably seen more than a few chubby-cheeked versions of baby Jesus’ face. The images found in pictures, statues, and Christmas cards may have started to feel commonplace. If that’s the case, Luke’s account of the prophetess Anna is a great help in recapturing the wonder we can experience when we behold the face of God in Christ.

Unlike when he described Simeon wrapping baby Jesus in his arms, Luke did not relate how Anna, Mary, and Joseph interacted at the Temple. But the details that he did include tell us a lot.

Luke calls Anna the “daughter of Phanuel” (2:36), a name that literally means “the face of God.” So from her very birth, Anna had figuratively beheld God. Now, in the Temple, she is privileged to gaze upon the one true God.

Luke also tells us that Anna is from the tribe of Asher—the son that caused Leah to say, “Women will call me fortunate,” or “happy,” as the Hebrew word is sometimes translated (Genesis 30:13).

The name Asher also means happy. So how much happier could an Asherite be than to find herself in the presence of God?

Finally, even Anna’s age is significant. She is eighty-four years old, which represents the number twelve—for the twelve tribes of Israel—multiplied by the number seven, which signifies completeness. Luke includes Anna’s age to remind us that God’s revelation of himself in Jesus was the completion of all his promises. It’s Luke’s way of telling us that seeing Jesus is to see his faithfulness. Seeing Jesus is the remarkable realization that God doesn’t want to be worshipped from afar; he wants to be with us in the most tangible, personal way.

In other words, seeing the face of Jesus this Christmas can bring us gratitude, awe, and peace. So why not put yourself in Anna’s shoes? Try to imagine what it would be like to see a little baby and to recognize that you are in the presence of God, who is fulfilling his promises right before your eyes. After all, God has brought his promise of salvation to completion in Christ, not just for Anna, but for all of his sons and daughters. Even for you.

“Lord, how happy I am to behold your face!”

1 John 2:12-17
Psalm 96:7-10
Luke 2:36-40


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