In Rembrandt’s Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus, Anna is by far the most physically active figure. Positioned behind the holy family and Simeon, she stands straight and thrusts her arms outward, palms open, in a gesture of astonishment and blessing. Her lined face appears to look downward on the small cluster of persons before her and also far beyond them to engage others, including the viewer of the painting. She is a striking presence.
How perfectly Rembrandt interprets Luke’s text! After carefully describing Anna’s status as a prophet, her great age, and her devotion, Luke makes the key point in a single sentence. The pace of narration quickens, mirroring Anna’s energy. Suddenly she’s right there, talking about the child “to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
If we consider what “the redemption of Jerusalem” means in Anna’s world, we see the immensity of her proclamation, for both her age and our own. Cultural, political, and religious divisions fracture Jerusalem. Roman rulers inspire loathing. Corruption allows low-minded persons to take control. The biblical word Luke used for redemption also means “freedom.” Common folk long for this freeing, life-restoring redemption. Even Anna does not know the fine points of what this newborn will teach. She cannot discern precisely what he will do in the years ahead. In her prayer-tutored heart, however, she recognizes the vast picture. After years of maturing, this little one will free people into a new way of living.
Luke offers a portrait of redemption proclaimed. It brings joy. It also encourages us. Here is Anna. With her voice, her body, every ounce of energy she has, she says it: Look! This child right here frees us all for a whole new way. Her very life is proclamation. Unselfconsciously, she beckons.
Lord, by your grace, may our lives and words proclaim the life you free us for in this needy world. Amen.
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we do so with cries of praise to God. Isaiah delights and rejoices in God, who will bring reconciliation to all nations. Psalm 148 declares that all of creation praises the Lord, for creation knows who formed and sustains it. Paul explains to the Galatians that God sent Jesus to redeem us, and as a result we may now call out to God as God’s children. In the Gospel reading, Luke sets the story of Jesus within the history of the Israelites. Both Simeon and Anna are devout people, filled with the Holy Spirit. They have been praying for God to send the Redeemer, and God gives them insight to recognize him as Jesus. Praise be to God for this indescribable gift!
Read Isaiah 61:10–62:3. How do you yearn for righteousness? How do the prophet’s words give you hope?
Read Psalm 148. Pause and consider the joy of God’s coming salvation for the whole world.
Read Galatians 4:4-7. Consider your identity as a child of God through Christ. What joy does this identity bring you?
Read Luke 2:22-40. How can you, like Anna, joyously proclaim the freedom and redemption Christ brings all of humanity?
Respond by posting a prayer.
Whitney Simpson offers a wide-open doorway into embodied practice and awakens us to the long-held wisdom of our tradition that our bodies are sacred places where God meets us and dwells. Fully Human, Fully Divine is a true Christmas gift!”
Click here to learn more about our newest Advent book and eCourse.