I am struck by how the prophetess Anna was able to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Here is a woman who has spent the last several decades of her life praying and fasting in the temple, day in and day out. Yet upon seeing Jesus, she knew he was like no other. He would be the one to bring redemption to Jerusalem.
Her ability to see how remarkable this infant was reminds me of the concept of “beginner’s mind”—a Buddhist approach of seeing something as if for the first time, with curiosity and open eyes. This is in contrast to how many of us operate. Once we have experienced something, we often trick ourselves into thinking we are somehow experts. “This is how it always is,” we tell ourselves. We anticipate the ending even before the story has begun.
This is not the situation with Anna. She must have seen thousands of parents do what Jesus’ parents did: bring their child for the rite of purification. Yet with a “beginner’s mind,” once she saw Jesus, she could see what others could not: that he would be the Savior.
In these days after Christmas, it can be tempting to anticipate or rush toward the end of the season—to take down the decorations and return to “life as usual.” What if instead we approached these Christmas days with a “beginner’s mind”? What if we approached all of life expecting the unexpected? Perhaps like Anna we might see the gift of God’s presence in our midst. Even more, we might imagine God looking at us as if for the first time—and seeing Christ’s presence shine through us in new ways we ourselves never imagined were possible.