How can we celebrate a season built around relationships and family when we feel alone? We could be surrounded by people, but still feel like a barren tree in the middle of an empty forest. The snow is falling all around, and the tree is frozen from the deepest root to the highest branch. But no one seems to notice.
Just as that tree lost all its leaves in the midst of autumn, we might feel we’ve lost everything and won’t make it through the winter season of bitter coldness and death. The Bible speaks of a woman who had lost everything in life. Her name was Anna. She was widowed only seven years into her marriage, and there is no mention of her having had children. She stayed in the temple, fasting and praying. And waiting.
Maybe she watched the people who came to the temple—seeing families with children, and wondering why she suffered such loss in her own life. In her day, society looked down upon widows and often presumed that some sin led to their desolate condition. But God saw Anna’s heart, and chose her to be among the first to embrace the child who would one day die to bring salvation to the world.
What was she thinking when she saw the baby? The Bible doesn’t say except that she “gave thanks to God and spoke of the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” To redeem is to take something that is bad and turn it into something that is good. It’s when God takes the ashes of our lives and turns them into something beautiful; when God uses the death of autumn and the silence of winter to bring about the life of spring. Anna knew that God was going to take her difficult circumstances and turn them into something good. And He did.
Just like He did for all those who had gone before her—those who were part of the lineage of the Savior. Among them were widows who, like herself, had lost everything: Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. Each story in the history of our Savior involves loss, but also reveals how God is able to take the trials of our lives and turn them into testimonies. And each story reminds us that even when we’ve lost everything, we’re never alone.
In the midst of war and battle, drought and famine, slavery and loss, our Savior came. Our Savior is also called “Immanuel.” It means “God is with us.” And He is.