Unwrapping the Gift: Anna

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

“How many more days until Christmas, Mom?”

If I’d heard it once, I’d heard it a hundred times. The anticipation was building and the boys just could not wait for the big day.

Some say anticipation makes what you’re waiting for even sweeter. If so, this day in the verse above was the sweetest day of all for Anna, the prophetess who had waited for years to see the promised babe.

Anticipation is always a part of Christmas. After all, it comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, a time when we empty our hearts out of thanks, leaving plenty of room for the Christ Child.

What can our boys learn from the story of Anna?

While We Wait: Lessons from Anna's Life | An Advent Study from The MOB Society

1. Yes, it’s hard to wait, but God works while we wait.

What did Anna do as she waited for the Christ Child? Scripture tells us she stayed close to God, worshiping, fasting, and praying. Putting others first, she lived life as a servant and gave God time to work.

Our boys have hopes and dreams, big ones and small. But as they wait, we can remind them that God is at work. For us, waiting time seems like, well, just waiting. We forget that behind the scenes, God is always at work. Not only does He work in us as we wait, He’s working in others. He has the master plan.

2. As we wait, we need to keep sight of the dream.

Anna must have watched Mary and Joseph come in; she saw Simeon’s blessing. She came up, at that very moment. She waited in watchfulness and as a result, she saw the fulfillment of a dream.

Don’t let the dream die! It’s easy for our boys to give up when they face failure or hard times, but those are some of the most valuable learning experiences. Encourage them to hang on to their dreams. Season your encouragement, Mom, with a balanced dose of reality and vision. Keep encouraging them that God will use all the things they’ve done and dreamed in their lives if they yield those things to Him.

3. Thankfulness is important.

Her wait was over. This was THE moment Anna had waited for, for years. Her immediate reaction was to give thanks to God. She didn’t give credit to anyone else—she recognized the source of the blessing and expressed her thanks.

We—and our boys—may say “thanks,” and consider that is the whole of thankfulness. It is, in a sense. But don’t forget the Source of all our blessings. Not only are we thankful for our family, for example, but we’re thankful that God gave us this family. As our sons achieve successes large and small—and as they undergo trials—help them to see God as the Source of all, and remind them that He is working those things together for good.

4. Spread the good news!

Anna couldn’t keep the good news of the Christ Child to herself. Scripture tells us she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to Jerusalem’s redemption.

When we share our blessings–truly share them; they bless someone else. They point others to the Source of blessing. Encourage your boys to share their good news, as small as it may seem. Reporting that Big Brother helped today seems like a small thing, but it fills a mom’s heart with joy, it encourages Brother to set a good example, and it helps a child rejoice in putting his brother first.

There are so many ways to share the good news of Christ today. With all our communication technology, our sons can actually share Christ around the globe. Let them write a poem, a song, a speech, or a scene and post it somewhere online for them. Encourage feedback from those who see it, so your boys can see that today’s technology can be used not just for fun, but to further the Gospel.

So as you remember Anna’s life this season, don’t forget all that is happening while we wait.

God is at work.

Hold onto the dream.

Be thankful.

Share the news.

UnWrapping the Gift

  • What was one thing in your life that you had to wait an extremely long time for? Ask your sons what’s something they’ve had to wait for?
  • Has there been a time in your life when you traded waiting for instant gratification? Tell your boys about it. What impact did it have in your life?
  • What are you waiting for right now?

 

lauraLaura Lee Groves is the mother of four sons and the author of I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys, in addition to Pearl, a novel about international adoption.

Want to learn more about Laura? Make sure to…

 

Unwrapping the Gift: Herod

In the Christmas account of Matthew 2:1-19, the clear villain is Herod. He was a brutal character the Romans installed as a puppet king, not even a Jew, but an Idumean from the south. When the Wise Men appeared in his courts asking, “Where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2), it’s no surprise that Herod was troubled. After all, he wasn’t born to his royal position, and someone who was might challenge his authority one day. Herod had murdered several family members to eliminate rivals for his throne, so One who had a claim by birth must be stopped!

Unwrapping the Gift: Herod | An Advent Series with The MOB Society

Herod asked the Wise Men to report back when they found the Christ Child under the false pretense that he wanted to worship Christ as well. (Matthew 2:8). Herod lied. His aim was to locate the Infant and murder Him. God warned the Wise Men in a dream not to return to Herod, thwarting the king’s plan. In a fury, Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to slaughter every boy under two years old.

How horrifying! Even now, two thousand years later, we are sickened by this massacre. How can we learn from the example of such a ruthless, despicable character?

I doubt Herod in his childhood was much different from any young boy. How on earth does any mother’s son turn out to be a mass murderer of children? He does it by giving way again and again to sin in his heart. Most of our boys go through a time in the preteen- or early teen years when their hormones go crazy and they are tempted by anger – a lot. It’s got to be one of the most frustrating times of all to be a parent. They get mad for no reason, hurling accusations at anyone nearby, and they’re spoiling for a fight. It’s awfully hard not to get mad right back at them.

We can’t give way to anger in response, though. Anger easily leads to bitterness, meanness, and cruelty. Our boys have to learn how to climb down off the walland deal with their temptation in a godly way–we all do. The Word tells us, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)

When we master our anger, we defuse disaster.

A city without defenses reacts to the slightest threat because it can’t just shut the gates and ignore provocation. In the same way, when we let anger control us, we’re vulnerable to the attacks and temptations of our enemy. We react and retaliate when there’s no need—or justification—for it. We shouldn’t be that way and neither should our boys. Instead, we need to respond to anger with a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1). We need to listen carefully, consider our own words, and be slow to anger ourselves (James 1:19). When we master our own anger, we model self-control for our children, and they learn to trust us.

Unwrapping the Gift

  • Do you struggle with anger? If so, you may want to check out our No More Angry MOB group on Facebook.
  • How can we model good practices with controlling anger to our boys?

Pray with Me

Father, please help me to control myself and to respond in a godly way to my children’s anger, so they can learn not to give way to anger, too. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Related Resources

Boot Camp 9-12 is a LIVE webinar series for parents of boys nine and up, to help you learn how to make the teen years great. In the very first session we talk about dealing with anger and moodiness common in this age. Join us!

Melanie-Winter-PicMelanie Young is, with her husband Hal, the author of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boys, Christian Small Publishers 2011 Book of the Year, and the soon-to-be-released (preorder now!) My Beloved and My Friend: How to be Married to Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses. Join them on the web at their blog!

 

UnWrapping the Gift: The Wise Men

I sit in the front row as their preschool selves enter. Preschool Christmas programs are just the best.

They saunter across the stage, singing the first verse on cue in their over-sized robes and drooping head gear, belting out the lyrics they’d practiced for so long…

We Three Kings of Orient are.
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

I can’t help but chuckle at their cuteness as they carry the gold, frankincense and myrrh. They stumble to remember the words of the song—singing out one phrase with loud enthusiasm and completely dropping out on the next.

O star of wonder, star of night. 
Star with royal beauty bright. 
Westward leading, still proceeding, 
Guide us to Thy perfect light.
 

UnWrapping the Gift: The Wise Men | An Advent Series with The MOB Society

By some sort of miracle, no one trips on their costume. They stop, kneel, and bow in front of  baby Jesus just as the song ends.

The narrator continues with the program as my mind takes a detour–pondering these Wise Men from the East who came to worship Him all those years ago.

Of all the characters in the story, they tend to get the least press.

But who were they?

And what can we possibly learn from them?

4 Lessons Learned from the Wise Men

1. Know God’s grace is wide enough for ALL people

The wise men would have likely been Magi from Persia. These were men of great intellect–bookworms, astronomers, and elite men. They were not Jews, but Gentiles–foreigners. And this fact would foreshadow what was to come, as they represented all who would eventually come to worship Jesus throughout the centuries.

Jesus, Himself, made the way.

He, whose very lineage is scandalous…

Jacob, the polygamist.

Judah, his son, and the solicitor of prostitutes.

Tamar, Judah’s sly and seductive daughter-in-law,

And Perez, the incestuous product of them both.

Boaz, the son of Rahab the prostitute.

Ruth, the Moabite foreigner,

And King David, their great-grandson–an adulterer and murderer.

Through them all, Jesus came. And through Him, God’s grace is wide enough for all people.  No matter what.

2. Seek Jesus, take risks, and never give up

The wise men traveled a long distance—at great risk and expense—without any certainty of what they would find. They simply had faith, based on the evidence, that Jesus existed. And they were willing to risk everything to find Him.

Sometimes our faith in God demands risk—a perseverance in seeking Him at all costs–with a confidence and steady trust that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. The wise men never gave up, and neither should we.

3. Be eager to accept guidance and direction

It is far too easy to pretend we’ve got it all together. And yet, the wise men refused. They were willingly led by a star and even stopped for some guidance and direction along the way.

There is power in being humble and teachable—in allowing ourselves to be led, instead of pretending to know it all. And in the end we are better off for the direction and guidance we’ve received, as we arrive at our destination.

4. Give God your best and worship Him

The wise men arrived bearing gifts.

They brought gold, the most valuable metal of all. They brought the best they could offer, to acknowledge Him as King and Lord over all. May we bring our best and give it to Him as Lord of all.

They brought frankincense, representing the incense that priests would burn in the temple, declaring Jesus as our High Priest, our Emmanuel—God with us. He would sympathize with our weaknesses and welcome us just as we are. May we worship Him with our surrendered lives, becoming a sweet fragrance of incense pointing the world to Him.

And they brought myrrh, an ointment used for burial to avoid decay. And they presented it to Jesus, the Savior of the world—a Savior who had come to die, and save us all from our sin. May we offer our very lives to Him to use as He desires, because He gave His very life for us.

 

Wise Words from Wise Men: Know Grace. Seek Jesus. Take Risks. Accept Guidance. Worship Him.  [Click to Tweet]

UnWrapping the Gift

  • Which of Jacque’s four points (Know Grace, Seek Jesus, Take Risks, Accept Guidance, or Worship Him) resonates most deeply with you this season?
  • Which of the four points would you like to instill in your boys this season?
  • What are some practical ways you apply these wise words?

Jacque-Watkins

 

 Jacque Watkins is a mercy lover, podcaster of Mud Stories, and champion of second chances, who’s been found by God’s mercy, and  knows His mercy can find you too.

Unwrapping the Gift – The Angels

In our household, Christmas doesn’t seem like Christmas until the tree is set up and the angel graces the top. Dressed in a white dress with feathery wings, our ceramic angel looks a bit like Elsa from Frozen. She’s a total sissy if you ask me.

Code Name Angel: A Message, A Mortal, and a Mystery Cracked | An Advent Series via The MOB Society

During the Christmas season it may be easy to forget about how awesome angels were when we’re surrounded by chubby cherubs or Elsa look-alikes, but, Moms, we’d be doing our sons a disservice if we didn’t reveal angels according to the true Biblical account. We have a lot we can teach our boys about this. The real angels were very cool dudes who ushered in the answer for the greatest mystery of the universe.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” Luke 2:8-9 (ESV).

Church Christmas pageants aren’t complete without adorable children dressed in angel costumes declaring, “Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth and good will to men.” The angels sent by God, however made the shepherds very afraid. These were no princesses in pretty dresses–they displayed the power and glory of their Creator.

Message Delivered

When the shepherds headed to the hills with the sheep that night, they didn’t expect to meet eternal messengers. Angels in the Bible are exactly that: messengers. They take the words of God and deliver them to men. Their words are not their own. They only speak what God tells them.

These messengers were eternal beings. They were created by God and were witnesses to the earthly struggles. Angelic messengers were sent many times in history, but never with good news such as this:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger,” (ESV).

That was their message: God was coming to earth as a man. The immortal was becoming mortal. An unbelievable message indeed!

The Mortal Discovered

Can you picture the angel’s whispered awe when they witnessed the babe in the manger, “He has his Father’s eyes.” Jesus was everything they knew God to be, and something completely new too: flesh.

“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,” says Colossians 1:19 (NLT). Christ in His human nature was the visible essence of the invisible God. The very angels who worshipped God on His throne witnessed God cloaking himself in flesh by becoming a frail babe.

God-come-to-earth became alive as a man. As everyone knows, what lives can also die. God, who was eternal became mortal. But why? What would make God lower himself in such a way? The clue was in the words they proclaimed.

Mystery Solved

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14 (ESV)

The reason for the birth was peace on earth. Not the peace like men and women have prayed for—begged for. Even 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth there are still fights and wars and battles between (and within) men.

Instead, because God chose to live as a mortal, and die as one too, sin and death were overcome.

The mystery was that the angel’s praises weren’t just for that night, but for all time … and for all people (<<—Tweet That). Angels were sent to deliver the best news ever: God made into mortal man made a way for all men—not just Jews during that generation—to become children of the one and only God.

The Mystery is for US

God lived in soft, smooth baby skin, and because of God’s mission when we believe in Jesus He’ll live in us, too.

As Colossians 1:27 says, “This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory,”(NLT).

Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas without God’s angels hovering over the Judean hillsides. The angels had the coolest job in the business if you ask me … tell that to your sissy, feather-winged angel on the tree this year!

Or better yet, remember this:
Glory to God and peace on earth.
Peace inside.
Peace for everyone.
Christ in us.
Rejoice!

UnWrapping the Gift

  • Does your Christmas tradition incorporate angel decorations?
  • How could you better convey the role of the angels’ to your boys?

 

Tricia GoyerTricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of two, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional
tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. A bestselling author, Tricia has published over thirty books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. In 2010, she was selected as one of the Top 20 Moms to Follow on Twitter by SheKnows.com. Tricia is also on the blogging team at MomLifeToday.com, TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites.

In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR. Tricia, along with a group of friends, recently launched www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, sharing ideas about simplifying life. She also hosts the weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired. Learn more about Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.

 

 

Unwrapping the Gift – The Shepherds

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.

That’s what the angel said to a terrified bunch of tired and dirty shepherds.

The Shepherds | Part of An Advent Study via The MOB Society

When I think of the shepherds at Christ’s birth I tend to picture them old, weathered, and in threes (darn you felt-board childhood!) but, I’ve been told that customarily the youngest in the family would be left to tend the herds at night. Imagine David in the field while the older sons went off to battle.

God seems to have a soft spot for shepherds. Israel’s greatest king was once the youngest of the low, carefully tending his father’s sheep. Jesus went so far as to call himself the good shepherd later in his ministry. I love that God cares for the least, that he watches over the young, and pursues the lost. That’s what makes the God of Christianity so unique. You don’t have to earn his favor through high status or works. Even if you’re a dumb, bleating, directionally-challenged animal he still goes to find you when you wander away.

When God announced Christ’s birth, he didn’t start with kings and priests; instead he told shepherds and the least.

He started with the least–the faithful. Glory shone and joy was proclaimed in a field – not a synagogue or palace.

Great joy that will be for all people.

That’s what the shepherds were given – great joy. They spread the word about the things they had seen, unable to contain their excitement, amazing their friends and families. I hope and suspect they never lost that joy or their zeal for spreading it.

I want my boys to have that same joy. I want it to spill over into all their relationships.
I want my boys to know that God values shepherds as much as Senators, designers as much as doctors, programmers as much as pastors. I want them to know he will use them in whatever vocation He has gifted them in. I want them to know He is there with them always in the everyday of every day–that purpose and power and peace show up in dirty fields in the dead of night.

I want my boys to know that it’s okay to live a simple, faithful life filled with joy and generosity.

And I want them to know that no matter what the world thinks of them or what they think of themselves, they have value in the eyes of the Creator.

Unwrapping the Gift:

1. Jess talks about imagining the shepherds as weathered and grizzled old men. What do you think about the fact that they may have actually been young boys?

2. Who in your community is the “least”? Brainstorm a list of how you could love those people this season. Then go do it!

3. Does Christmas overwhelm you instead of fill you with joy? You’re not alone! Are there areas in which you can cut away from the BUSY to help cultivate joy?

 

JessicaJessica (Bohemian) Bowman is a jack of all internets and a mother of four. Grace is her middle name (not really) and she’s been married for fourteen years to a guy she really super likes (since she was seventeen!). In early 2015 her family is moving to a sensitive country in South Asia to do good work. Because Jesus.