Well hello! My name is Anna. I have been living at the Temple in Jerusalem for years. I am an elder and a prophet. I've been here longer than I can even remember. I love worshiping God so much that I hardly ever want to go home. But you know what that means? I get to see a lot of what goes on around here!
As an old lady, I love to see babies. They just thrill my heart. According to Jewish custom, there were a few things that would happen:
If it was a first born child, the baby would be dedicated to God. It says in the book of Exodus: "Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine." (Ex. 13:2)
It also says that first born children should be set apart and given to God. (Ex. 13:12)
Let's see, there are some other things too! The parents are required to make an offering to God for every child born. Most people offer a sheep, but if the family is poor, they can offer two turtledoves or pigeons and the priest will make the offering for the parents. (Leviticus 12:8)
I have seen many babies come and go here at the Temple. There were two stories that I found especially fascinating. The first was about the baby John. His parents were Elizabeth and Zechariah. I met them when they presented their child, John, to the Temple for his circumcision. The story they told! First, they were older parents. They struggled to have children and it wasn't until a miracle happened that they were able to have their child. Second, when Zechariah found out Elizabeth was pregnant, he didn't believe it! Well, it would be hard to believe if you had worked that hard, too! Anyway, Zechariah didn't believe that Elizabeth was pregnant and then he became mute until the baby was presented to the Temple for his circumcision. So for about 9 months, Zechariah couldn't say anything! Hmm…I bet that made Elizabeth's life easier.
Zechariah told me that an angel came to him and told him all about their child. The angel said that he would be great in the eyes of God and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit…even before he was born! Imagine that! God walks with us even before we are born. Finally, when they presented their baby at the Temple for circumcision and everybody was asking for his name, Zechariah was able to speak again. We all thought the baby's name would be Zechariah after his father! But no! They chose the name John. They said that God chose the name. And that was the first time Zechariah spoke. Then it was followed by a prophetic song that was so beautiful, it still has my heart singing.
I remember a few of the words….it went something like this…
"In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us."
Oh, and there was another amazing story. But I'm a bit tired now. I'll come back and share the story about Mary and Joseph's baby another time.