Journey to the Manger: Anna

Matt and the kids try to quickly memorize what objects are on the tray.

Matt and the kids try to quickly memorize what objects are on the tray.

As my family continues our Journey to the Manger, we stopped by the Temple and met an old woman named Anna.

At the age of 84, God gave Anna a beautiful gift. Anna had lived in the Temple for decades. She became a widow seven years into her marriage, and spent every waking moment in the Temple from that point, pouring out her heart to the Lord, worshiping Him, and declaring His praises. Out of such a deep intimacy with her Heavenly Father came great sensitivity to the working of the Holy Spirit. She learned how to pay attention to God’s movement.

Anna

Anna

So, when a new mother and father entered the Temple one day, cradling their infant son, Anna was ready and waiting for God to speak, like she did every day. This time Anna heard the God of the Universe cry out and coo from by Mary’s loving arms. This elderly lady, so close to Heaven, beheld Heaven’s promise and joy with her own eyes. Right away she broke out in praise and began to witness to everyone around that this child would redeem them all!

Anna spent so much time with God, she was quick to feel His presence and respond. She paid attention. For most of us around the celebration of Christ’s birth, our focus is much less trained. Too often we succumb to the Christmas crazy, running from one store to the next for the perfect gifts, squeezing in parties and school programs and church musicals and family gatherings. We become too busy to receive God’s greatest gift: the presence of His Son.

Today, we put our focus to the test. My husband and kids put their game faces on as I revealed a tray of objects, and they began intensely scanning the items for the next minute. Then, they worked together to recall from memory as many of the items as they could. They impressively remembered 20 out of 26! Jackson explained that he just needed to close his eyes to see the tray and remember what it held.

Maybe the same memory device could also be used in our spiritual lives. We need to spend more time with our eyes closed in prayer to sear God’s promises on our hearts. Anna spent years and years meditating on God’s Word and willingly serving Him. When the time came, Anna was ready to experience the joy of Christ.

This Christmas, that’s what we need most: Jesus.

 

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.

Journey to the Manger: Zechariah the prophet

Lauren pats down wet toilet paper to cover a bowl. Though the project wasn't finished today (on purpose!), the kids did get to splash quite a bit of water around.

Lauren intently works on her art project

On our Journey to the Manger today, we became friends with Zechariah the prophet.

God used Zechariah to call for repentance, as well as encourage the people of Israel. God reinforced His promises of hope and salvation through Zechariah, reminding the Hebrews that the Messiah was coming to rule as King. Even though they were facing difficult circumstances, the people knew that one day the Savior would arrive!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

– Zechariah 9:9

Zechariah the prophet

Zechariah the prophet

Zechariah didn’t know the time frame of the Messiah’s appearance, he just knew God’s Son would come. Zechariah took God at His Word, and believed. God’s salvation and the Righteous Redeemer was worth the wait. The Israelites would need to cling to these promises for hundreds of years until God was made flesh and dwelt among them.

Today we began an art project that gave us an inkling of the patience Zechariah and many others exercised waiting on God to send the Savior. We wrapped toilet paper over a bowl and wet it down again and again until a thick covering formed. Then we set it aside. We tried to figure out how long it might take for it to completely dry, with guesses ranging from a few hours to a day (in kid terms: forever). This project will be the skirt for an angel we will make when we meet the Heavenly Host in the night sky on our Journey to the Manger. We counted 15 days until we can finish what we started. Though both kids were a little disappointed we couldn’t complete it today, they accepted that there was a good reason we had to wait.

God’s promises are sure. We can count on God to do what He says He will do. Even so, we struggle in the waiting. We want God to answer our prayers or come through for us on our time-table. In other words, God needs to show up right now! Our Heavenly Father wants more for us. He knows how much our hearts are shaped for holiness “in the meantime.”

God will follow through. He always finishes what He begins.

 

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.