Journey to the Manger: Mary

Lauren and Jackson at our church's candelight Christmas Eve service

Lauren and Jackson at our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service

On Christmas Eve, we pondered with Mary on our Journey to the Manger.

Mary was there for it all. The Angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce the Messiah was coming, and she would be His mom. She believed and trusted Her Heavenly Father, and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth to see God’s miraculous power first-hand. She spent three months with Zechariah and Elizabeth, and may have even seen the birth of John the Baptist. Mary traveled with her betrothed husband Joseph to Bethlehem to be counted in the census declared by Caesar Augustus. When they arrived, no one would give them room, and the two ended up in a stable when Mary went into labor. She gave birth to a son, wrapped him in strips of cloths and laid him in the manger. When the shepherds arrived later and bowed low before her newborn baby, they must have told amazing stories of an angel proclaiming the Messiah’s birth and heavenly hosts filling the night’s sky. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, and while there to fulfill the law concerning their son, they met Simeon and Anna who prophesied about Jesus. Later, wise men came and worshiped Jesus, laying expensive gifts before Him, telling them of the star that guided them from so far away. Joseph then helped Mary and Jesus quickly escape Jerusalem when God came to him in a dream revealing Herod‘s evil plans. Mary and Joseph eventually made their way back to Nazareth, where they raised their son.

Mary

Mary

Mary experienced these moments and so many more as she watched her precious Son grow, in favor with God and man. She was there when Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine. She watched and heard about His travels from town to town proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven was here. She marveled as her Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed thousands, even raised the dead.

And, Mary stood at the foot of the cross, where her child hung by nails pierced through His hands and feet.

Mary was there at the beginning and at the end.

The night Jesus was born, Scripture tells us that Mary treasured every moment. She stored every tear, every kiss, every snuggle, deep within her heart. She wondered and worshiped as she listened to the shepherds and watched them praise God for her perfect little boy.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

– Luke 2:19

Jesus is our treasure. He longs to reign in our hearts, for us to ponder His love and abundant grace.

Tonight, our family pondered Jesus’s story and treasured it up in our hearts at our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service. We watched candles being lit as Scripture was read, and sang carols praising God for His great gift of love. When we returned home, we spent time together talking about what a wonderful month we’ve had approaching the manger and focusing on Jesus, the greatest gift of all.

I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve than treasuring the Savior we will celebrate tomorrow!

Christmas Countdown Day 11: Christmas tree creativity

Our Advent Scripture passage is Mark 1:1-3.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You,
who will prepare Your way.

A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!

Today felt a bit like Christmas Eve. Our family activity took a bit of preparation, so I spent time creating and wrapping and looking forward to the kid’s reactions.

It all started with wrapping cereal boxes with felt and securing the edges with hot glue. By the end, customizable Christmas trees emerged.

Felt board Christmas tree

Felt board Christmas tree

On the back of the felt board, I glued a plastic sack to keep all the felt pieces together.

On the back of the felt board, I glued a plastic sack to keep all the felt pieces together.

As an added touch, I wrapped up the gifts and placed them under the tree.

Gifts under the Christmas tree

Gifts under the Christmas tree

When Lauren woke up from her nap, she didn’t even realize the gifts were there. It was about half an hour after Jackson arrived home from school when I heard him shout, “What!?! Mom, there’s presents!!”

Later in the evening after dinner, we gathered together to read our Advent verses. Jackson worked to move along the conversation, because his attention was under the tree.

Jackson and Lauren created their own Christmas trees, again and again.

Jackson and Lauren created their own Christmas trees, again and again.

The kids loved their felt board Christmas trees! I lost count of how many different Christmas trees they each created.

Anticipation is key to gift giving. That’s why as kids we couldn’t sleep Christmas Eve. We knew when we woke up there would be presents under the tree. I can’t tell you how many times Jackson walked slowly past the presents this afternoon and would “subtly” mention them in an attempt to change my mind about when he could open his. Anticipation often makes the arrival that much more sweet.

Maybe that’s why God sent John ahead of His Son to prepare the way. He again drew hearts to God, helping people to look forward to the Messiah with renewed passion. The Kingdom of Heaven is near, John proclaimed. He created a longing for those suffering from injustice and unending, man-made religious rules that God Himself would soon arrive to bring freedom. The One foretold would soon be.

How can you help create anticipation in your home for Jesus’ arrival this Christmas?