So much could be said, but I haven't the time to share all the new nuggets I mined out of the text today. I've read these passages countless times, and somehow certain facets alluded me. It's like they appeared on the pages sometime since the my last perusal of Luke, but I know this can't be true. This is the genius of a book that is living and active. (Hebrews 4:16)
I want to point out two things that piqued my interest.
First, Anna the prophet. I don't know why, but I haven't thought much about her as it relates to the Christmas story. This, I suppose, has something to do with growing up Baptist and believing women shouldn't be in leadership unless, of course, it's leading the potluck or the childcare. So for me, this idea that the words "prophet" and "Anna" could be one in the same is quite striking.
I love the idea of seeing a women given a platform and a voice. Not just any voice, but the voice that is the oracle of God to the people. I think many women have been told and come to believe that they don't get to play in the "big leagues" with the "big boys". They quietly assume their role in the shadows, seen but not heard. This is tragic. The idea of Anna being the megaphone of God standing in this crucial gap between heaven and earth puts a smile on my face. I want to humanize women instead of patronize them. Thanks, Anna.
Second, when John the Baptist goes out and starts preaching repentance that produces fruit, the crowd asked him, "What should we do then?" I absolutely love his response, because it is the furthest thing from a classical religious response that you could get. "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same." I don't remember ever reading this before. I know I have, it just didn't register.
We live in a day and age where the gospel has been reduced to a prayer, a sermon, a "to do" list, a song, or worse, a privatized (or personal) relationship with Jesus. John hadn't even met Jesus yet and he knew the ropes. How do you repent? Easy. "Got two shirts, give one away." Really? Really? Yep. "And anyone who has food should do the same." What are we running here a Salvation Army? What about repentance? As John said earlier "produce fruit in keeping with repentance". So how do you know whether you have really repented? Well, you will give stuff away to people that need it. This, for too long, has been the gapping hole in the gospel.
We have turned following Christ into going to church. We have turned church into a service. We have turned a service into songs and a sermon. We have turned the sermon into principles. We have turned principles into steps. We have turned steps into spiritual laws. We have turned spiritual laws into evangelism. We have turned evangelism into tracts. And finally, we have turned tracts into the gospel. This is, much like the women issue, also 'tragic'.
We need a recovery of practical gospel living. Things like shirts and food.