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Anna in Waiting: A Story for Christmas

They call me a prophetess.

I sometimes wonder if I’m worthy of the name. My life hasn’t been a sparkling example of God’s power, because my life has been a wait.

A long wait.

Today, though, I can hear something in the distance. Something like the ringing of bells at the edges of my hearing. Something bright dancing into my vision, too. Something beckoning…

It’s so long ago, now. So long since I saw the face of my beloved husband. I can hardly summon his features in my mind, removed from me by the years. His deep brown eyes reach through time and touch me anew. Sixty years ago, it was. Sixty years since he died, left me all alone. A widow at twenty-four, a figure of pity and uselessness.

Nothing left to live for.

A broken young woman with long dark hair and eyes veiled in mourning garb, I dragged my feet through the dust-covered streets to the temple. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for. A something. Something to lift my eyes and fling my loneliness far from me. So I went.

And I never left.

The temple drew me in, seized my spirit and restored my soul. Exposed the hurting places deep inside and turned me inside out. There was no other place I could conceive of being. My song became that of the Psalmist, in Psalm 84:

‘How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out
For the living God.’

I became like the sparrow finding her home, the swallow making her nest. My home was near the altar of my King, and it changed me.

Yet somehow, I’m still not quite there. I stand on the edge of the Holy of Holies, desperate to enter. I cannot go in, I know that, but my heart is heavy with yearning. I gaze at the thick linen curtain, heavy with age and ponderous sanctitude, and wonder.

What if…?

The bells are ringing more clearly. I look up into the morning sky, a clear azure expanse, no cloud in sight, and an impression of something weaves through my mind. The holy curtain in swathes of thick darkness… and something more. An immense rend, like the whole fabric is being ruptured. Top to bottom.

My heart swells with a bursting joy I’ve never even imagined.

The image fades, but the bells still peal, a faint echo of a startling impression. The sound is something resonant. Something which tugs at my deepest place. I want to follow the sound and drench myself in it.

Through sixty long years, I fasted and I prayed. I searched for the redemptive work of my God through my waiting, catching enthralling glimpses and captivating shadows, but never seeing my waiting come to an end. In the early days, I was impatient. I was ready for God to act. My heart was bursting with passion for the Lord, and zeal for the love and mercy of God to be known throughout the land. All around me I saw hardship and struggle, the country under harsh Roman rule, and even some of my fellow Jews seemed to be so bound up in the law they forgot about love. They forgot about justice rolling like rivers, and righteousness like never-failing streams.

But I never forgot.

I fasted and I prayed,

and I waited.

I gaze across the temple courts now as a commotion makes itself known. The brightness I caught the edge of earlier is stronger now, lines of shimmering light hovering somewhere on the horizon. I shield my eyes, watch the small group standing over to my left. Simeon I know well. He’s one of the good ones. The most righteous man I know, and he’s like me. He’s been waiting for so long. He’s so certain he will see the promised Messiah before he dies. His confidence has been a mainstay for me in my darker times, carrying me through. I squint through the strange brightness and move closer.

A baby. He’s holding a baby. A woman and a man stand close, their faces full of puzzlement, but something else, too. There’s joy there. There’s a lighting up from within. I strain to catch his words. ‘My eyes have seen your salvation,’ he says.

My heart leaps in my chest, and the bells ring louder.

What could he mean?

He bends close to the woman, whispers words in her ear. I watch as her eyes fill with tears. Simeon stands back, and I look at his face.

Peace rests on him in tangible waves.

I move closer. The light is brighter now, drawing me in, enfolding me in something I have only dreamed of. Something like the yearning I’ve known for so long in my waiting, the desperation to be in the place my heart pines for most.

The presence of God.

The bells are ringing louder, the skies resounding in an anthem of praise, and I know.

I know.

The baby gazes up at me with dark eyes so full of innocence, and with the weight of glory. I step over to the woman, and she hands him to me. So new, so perfect.

So holy.

I give thanks to God, and know that my years of waiting are over. They culminate in this love-soaked moment, in the profound beauty of the tiny baby in my arms, who is somehow the fulfilment of all I have been longing for.

The redemption of Jerusalem.

The restoration of me.


Dear Jesus,
In my waiting time
May I know that you long to restore me
To touch my life with your presence.
May I yearn for the place where you are,
Step into the Holy of Holies without shame or guilt,
Because you beckon me in,
You have rent the curtain in two,
In reckless, outrageous love.

The waiting had been so hard. So long. But something was changing. Bells were ringing, somewhere in the distance… Anna in Waiting: A Christmas Story. Share on X

This story was first published in the Association of Christian Writers Christmas Anthology, Merry Christmas Everyone. There are many wonderful pieces of poetry and prose, reflections and stories in the book – do get hold of it if you want some seasonal reading!

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