Sometimes the people who we think have nothing to say to us turn out to be the most significant in our lives. My grandmother, Eloise Dorothy Tompkins, was orphaned at a very young age. She was adopted by an older family, when she was beyond her toddler years and heading toward school age. I remember her telling me how when a family came to the orphanage to select a child to adopt, all of the children would be lined up against the wall. The adoptive couple would select the child they wanted. My grandmother would recount with remarkable emotion and poignancy that since she was older, she would be passed over for much younger children and babies.
I remember as she told me that story how painful it must have been to face the feeling of rejection over and over until she found someone who would love and care for her. I suppose they thought she was a "lost cause." That dear and delightful woman was a joy to everyone who knew her. She raised nine children--two sets of twins! She was a faithful companion and love of my grandfather's life. Some of my richest memories were formed when I spent the night with my grandparents. After we had all gone to bed I would hear them talking to one another. It usually had something to do with how much fun they had that day with my brother and me. It would also end with them telling one another how much they loved each other. Fifty-five years of marriage will do that to you.
The prophetess, Anna, enters the story of Jesus in the same way that Simeon does. She comes by surprise. She has a rich and dynamic lineage in the house and family of Israel. She had been married once, but now for decades she had been a widow. She was always around praying and fasting. She, too, saw the child, and began to praise God. She celebrated the redemption that was coming because of him.
I suppose there were those in the temple who had gotten used to Anna. They just figured this little old lady was harmless, and didn't really matter much. They couldn't be more wrong. She was a woman whose eyes were wide open for the thrill of seeing the Savior of the world. She was just like Simeon. She saw things for how they really are, and how they were going to be through this child, Jesus.
This story reminds me of something else: True religion is caring for widows and orphans, James says. I am grateful for the witness of Anna, and I am sure glad someone cared for Eloise Dorothy Tompkins. She taught me how to pray. She taught me what it meant to be content in all things. She lived by one singular motto in life: Whatever you do, do all of it for the praise and glory of God. Thank God for women who see Jesus, and know what to do next.
So we pray: Be present, O Lord, to our supplications; and let us, who were created by your hand and restored by your power, also be saved by your continual grace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.