Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 30 December (Luke 2.36-40)

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, sovereign God,
creator of heaven and earth,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your living Word, eternal in heaven,
assumed the frailty of our mortal flesh,
may the light of your love be born in us
to fill our hearts with joy as we sing:
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Reading: 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 for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped 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 favour of God was upon him. 

Luke 2.36-40 NRSV

Reflection 

Today’s reading carries on from yesterday’s account of Simeon’s encounter with the baby Jesus. Today we read of how Anna, a prophet, came forward and began to praise God. Unlike Simeon’s words, she uttered a prophecy in which she spoke of the child who would bring about the redemption of Jerusalem. Anna had lived and worshipped in the temple for many years. She had resided in the house of God where she had spent her time with fasting and prayer night and day. This account of the prophet Anna should encourage us as we strive to live lives of faith.

Anna’s long life is important as we reflect upon today’s words from Luke’s gospel. Anna had known the tragedy of widowhood and she had lived into old age. There must have been times during her eighty-four years when she would have struggled to maintain her daily discipline of fasting and prayer. But, Anna had an impressive ancestry which she could trace back to the tribe of Asher, the eighth of Jacob’s twelve sons. In the Old Testament we read of the prospering of the tribe of Asher, and of its spiritual shallowness and lack of devotion. Unlike other tribes of Israel the story of the tribe of Asher peters out as its reluctance to come to the aid of others led to its being carried off into bondage. But then we read of Anna of the tribe of Asher.

This brief historical pen-picture provides us with our challenge for today. Anna was a woman in a man’s world, a widow, a person of poverty, a survivor; she was also a devout person who faithfully redressed the tribe which had betrayed its calling many centuries earlier; as a prophet she was a student of scripture and an evangelist of Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus grew in wisdom and would eventually redeem humanity. But, as time continues to roll on, God calls us to pick up the model we are given in the life of Anna, the prophet, who fasted and prayed in the temple night and day. Let us pray that we might fulfil that calling in joy, the joy of the Christ-child who grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.

Prayers

To us a child is born, to us a son is given;
let us pray for the people he came to save.

Wonderful Counsellor,
you order all things with your wisdom:
help the Church to reveal the mystery of your love
and fill her with the Spirit of truth:
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Mighty God,
the government is on your shoulders:
guide the leaders of the nations
and bring in your kingdom of justice and righteousness: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Everlasting Father,
you call us to live together in unity:
protect by your mercy all your children,
bless our families and renew our communities: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Prince of Peace,
you bring reconciliation through the cross:
by your healing power give to all who suffer
your gift of wholeness and peace: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Let us commend the world, to which Christ came,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Lord Jesus Christ,
your birth at Bethlehem
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:
accept our heartfelt praise
as we worship you,
our Saviour and our eternal God.
Amen.

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one
things earthly and heavenly,
fill us with peace and goodwill
and make us partakers of the divine nature;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.