This is the Sunday when we meet Simeon and Anna. The two old people hanging around the temple when they greet Mary and Joseph and say wonderful things about the Christ child. I always wondered about Lukes need to tell us about her being the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. Lutheran got out of the habit but when he wanted to he could allegorize with the best of them. Here is a part of his discussion of Anna from a sermon on the Sunday after Christmas.
She is a daughter of Phanuel. After Jacob had wrestled with the angel, Genesis 32:30, he called the name of the place Peniel or Phanuel, and said: “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Peniel or Phanuel means “face of God”. Now the face of God is nothing but the knowledge of God, and God can only be known by faith in his Word. The Word and promises of God declare nothing but comfort and grace in Christ, and whoever believes them beholds the grace and goodness of God. This is the knowledge of God, which cheers and blesses the heart, as David says in Psalm 4:6-7: “Jehovah, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart,” and Psalm 80:8: “And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.” We read much in Scripture concerning the hiding and showing of the countenance of God.
Behold, in this way the fathers and saints of old were spiritual children of Phanuel, of divine knowledge and wisdom, which filled them with joy.
To this they attained by faith in the divine promise and thus they became prophets. But faith and the promises of God they obtained only because they were favored by him, out of God’s pure grace and mercy.
She he was of the tribe of Asher. Asher means happiness ( Genesis 30:13). Faith makes us children of divine wisdom and blessedness. For faith destroys sin and redeems from death, as Christ says in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” To be saved means nothing but redemption from sin and death.
Anna then is a daughter of Phanuel and Asher, full of wisdom and having a good conscience in the face of all sins and the terrors of death. All this is bestowed by faith in the divine promise of mercy; and thus one follows the other: Anna, the prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. This means that we obtain the promise of God and believe in it only by divine grace, whereby we learn to know God and his goodness thoroughly, which fills the heart with joy, security and blessedness, and delivers us completely from sin and death.