Anna and the Surprising Jesus


By Liz Ditty | Twitter: @lizditter


My mother hadn’t decorated the house for Christmas since my dad died. Our family heirloom ornaments of crumbling school craft material sat still and musty in the rafters of her garage and no tree or wreath or garland or scent of pine or cinnamon were allowed to fill the home. They would be dangerously redolent of the times our family laughed and teased and huddled under oversized blankets on the couch.

I prayed through my holiday depression, into the fog. “Lord, I need a promise that our family is going to be okay.” I read through the Christmas Story, trying to hear it in my dad’s familiar voice, trying to feel like Christmas. That was the night I met Anna.

Anna didn’t just happen to be at the temple that day, she was always at the temple. Though she likely slept somewhere in the city, her many days as a widow were spent as close as she could get to the presence of God to be present with Him. When she threw herself at God in her grief, she found Him. Somewhere in her long life spent staring at His face, of sitting in His temple, she became a prophet. Day after faithful day, she prayed and served and patiently waited out the end of her life. She was 84 years old when she recognized Jesus.

God in flesh came to the temple for the first time in the timid arms of Mary.

Simeon saw him first. The six-week-old baby, eyes soaking in his new world. The vulnerable freshness of a newborn concealing the Ancient of Days. An unlikely place to find the face of God, in those young arms, but Simeon’s soul cried out in recognition and burst forth in prophetic song and blessing. God had intimately promised him that he would see this baby; overwhelming joy floods, hope secured, divine promise fulfilled.

God had promised no such thing to Anna. She came upon Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on an ordinary day and in utter surprise recognized God. She burst open with gratitude and exuberantly told everyone who would listen that the promised Messiah had arrived.

Jesus was promised, but He was also a surprise.

I cried many times that Christmas, but one of those times was the day I met Anna. It was in her faithful life and giddy recognition of God that I learned I don’t need a specific personal promise to hold on to.

I can instead grip desperately to the truth that God is good, that He loves to surprise us with unimaginable gifts, and that if I am present to Him every day, His presence will heal me. The truth that, one ordinary day, with no hope on the horizon, I might pause and see a gift that reminds me that my faithfulness to God is a faint shadow of His undying faithfulness to me and I will be overwhelmed in gratitude and joy, suddenly aware of His loving presence.


About Liz:

Liz DittyLiz Ditty is a writer, speaker, and podcaster when she is not DJing glow stick parties for preschoolers. Quitting her corporate gig to build a home amidst the fast paced chaos of Silicon Valley has changed the way that Liz understands herself, God, and the world around her. She writes about it all at Faith Like a Mom and contributes as a member to the Redbud Post.



  1. This just swells with hope and promise, Liz. Thank you for offering up your grief and hope together.

  2. Beautifully said. You helped me see Anna’s story (and my journey with God) in a whole new light. Thank you!

  3. Jessamyn Owen Kirkwood says:

    You so eloquently capture both the sanctified imagination and the often buried rawness of our Saviors first days here on earth, made all the more poetic through the lenses of an overlooked member of society. There is so much that I identify with in this and so much more I long to see myself in. Thank you, Liz. Merry Christmas!

    • Liz Ditty says:

      It hasn’t been until this season of my life when I’ve had the gift to hold and care for and notice babies that the insanity of God choosing to occupy such a vulnerable and incapable body has astounded me so. Thanks for walking in my imagination with me!

  4. Angela M. Shupe says:

    I love the idea that “He loves to surprise us with unimaginable gifts” in the midst of the ordinary. Thanks for this encouraging reminder, Liz. Merry Christmas!

  5. Sandy Hay says:

    WOW what an amazingly wonderful post. Thank you Liz.

  6. Your words are a rich encouragement for my heart this first Christmas without my dad. Thank you for noticing Anna and letting God use her to fill the cracks in your heart.

    • Liz Ditty says:

      Julie, those early Christmases were so hard. I’m thinking of you and your family this season. I know God will bring you your own ray of hope and grace in a surprising way :).

  7. Thanks for shedding a fresh light upon a woman who inspire me always. Just beautiful Liz xo

  8. Liz! I am so glad you are in this space and what beautiful words you bring. I saw Anna anew today, too! I will be sharing this with friends I know who are struggling with needing some surprises from God this season. “f I am present to Him every day, His presence will heal me…” This is so good and needed today!

    • Liz Ditty says:

      Thank you for your warm welcome, Nicole, and for your support! I’m honored to be writing alongside women I admire so much, and so thankful for the chance to shine a little of the hope I hold.

  9. I love Anna so much that I’ve even dressed up like her in order to tell the Christmas story to a bunch of second graders. I thought I had turned her story to every angle, but you, Liz, have sent a beam of light refracted from Anna’s life that I’ve never seen before. Jesus: a promise and also a surprise. Glorious!

    • Liz Ditty says:

      Michele I LOVE that you have dressed up as Anna! She is such a quiet hero in the narrative- keep telling her story!


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