Advent: Ladies-In-Waiting (Hannah, Did You Know?)

tilt-shift photography of person in brown jacket

Ladies in Waiting

(Hannah, Did You Know?)

by T.J. Campo

Here, Luke describes the infant Christ’s presentation at the temple by Mary and Joseph:

And there was a prophetess, ‘Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2)

Advent is about waiting… and some people know a lot about waiting. Some wait as an occupation! They stand by, waiting to be summoned by patrons in a restaurant or in royal courts, as professional “ladies-in-waiting” who attend to the needs of the monarchs.

You may know the story of our ancient sister, Hannah (First Samuel CHs 1-2), who waited for a child. She was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah. His other wife had borne children, but Hannah was apparently unable to get pregnant. She waited and waited but no child came. She’s a picture of disappointment and despair.

The gloating of the fertile wife became so unbearable that Hannah just couldn’t wait any longer. She called on God and made “one of those bargains” with God that are often …well …ill-advised. She prayed, “If You, LORD, will give me, Your maidservant, a son, then I will give him back to the LORD all the days of his life.” 

God gave Hannah that son, Samuel, and she did indeed bring her son to be raised at the Temple (tabernacle) as a priest-apprentice. We wonder how she felt about that vow when she got a son … but couldn’t raise him. She had to be content with a yearly visit to the Temple when she would see the firstborn son she’d devoted to the Lord. We can only imagine Hannah waiting for that yearly visit. She had exchanged one kind of waiting for another. girl in pink jacket holding her hair

God blessed Hannah with five more children, but we do wonder if Hannah ever got over the “loss” of her firstborn son whom she placed for adoption and committed to the Lord. And with that unanswered question, we say goodbye to Hannah…whose name never appears in the Bible again… until it does!

In St. Luke’s Gospel, we read of another Hannah (Hannah-2) who lived over a thousand years after the first Hannah-in-waiting. This second Hannah (usually known as “Anna”) was also a professional waiter. She lived in the Temple and everyday while praying and fasting, she waited for her “lost” son. This second-Hannah was also a picture of disappointment. She had been married for only seven years when her husband died and she never remarried. 

We learn one more little fact about this “Hannah-2” and that is her last name: “Phanuel” (literally “face of God”). That’s the location where the Patriarch Jacob saw God face-to-face and yet lived (Gen. 32.30-31).

When we meet Hannah-2 in the Temple, she’s 84 years old (as many scholars have noted, that’s 7 x 12 – two Biblical numbers of completeness multiplied — she’s been completely waiting COMPLETELY!) She’s a professional waiter! And then one day, it’s as if, after 84 long years Hannah-2 sees the dedicated son for whom she’s been COMPLETELY waiting! She’s taken up the waiting of her much older namesake!

In keeping with her last name (Phanuel – face of God), when ‘Anna (“Hannah-2”) has now come to the end of her COMPLETELY longwait she sees the long-awaited the face of God in this Baby being presented by these amazed parents, a first-born Son who is completely devoted to God. In Jesus Christ, Hannah-2 sees the face of God (as Jacob did at Penuel).

And that’s the story of how God turns the disappointment and difficulty of waiting to JOY. Advent waiting, fasting, prayer, disappointment and longing turns to Christmas joy, effusive gratitude and telling others about the long-awaited Son, ourRedeemer! As with the Ladies in Waiting – Let Us Worship God!

-By T.J. Campo

  • TJ and his wife, Missy, have been at Park Road for over 30 years. They have 3 adult children and 1 grandson.