December 19, 2022
Read: Luke 2:21-24.
Consecrating a Child, the Shadow of a Lamb
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:21-24
These are transitional verses of scripture that take us from the angels and shepherds to the encounters with Simeon and Anna a few verses later. They are easy to skip over. Yet they foreshadow the cross coming 30+ years ahead in a couple different ways.
In verse 21 we're told of the fulfilment of the instruction Mary received from Gabriel to name her son Jesus - before he was even conceived. The name Jesus in Hebrew translated quite literally to "Salvation" or "Saviour", and we know from Mary's song earlier in Luke that all this was about "mercy for Abraham and all his descendants". From the outset, Jesus was named for the plan to save us.
I think the act of consecrating Jesus and offering the required sacrifice points us there too.
If we follow the sacrifice reference back to Leviticus 12, we can see that the requirement in the law following the birth of a son or daughter was a year-old lamb - the pair of birds Mary and Joseph gave was for those who couldn't afford one. Just a few verses before, we see Mary treasuring up in her heart much of the news from the angels and shepherds - knowing what Mary and Joseph must have already been absorbing from Angels and the birth, and as faithful followers of God, either their financial situation must have been difficult indeed to not spring for a lamb - or they were prompted somehow to make the lesser sacrifice.
Whatever their reason - and whatever they already knew - in a sense the lamb was already there, in Jesus. And out of Mary and Joseph's desire to consecrate their son and bring sacrifice, we see nearly immediate encounters and words of promise and fulfilment in the encounters ahead with Simeon and Anna, clear echoes of God's delight.
I can picture Mary and Joseph thinking on the way into the temple "this isn't enough" or even "I'm not enough". The truth is we weren't enough, or Jesus wouldn't have needed to come. But Jesus, Saviour, the lamb of God, is so much more than enough. Covering our sin with his sacrifice. God with us, Emmanuel.
Over this past year there have been so many times when I didn't feel like enough - for family, friends or other spheres of life. Yet when I am not enough Jesus redeems, fills, surrounds me both personally and in community.
"Jesus as we approach the manger this season, would you hold us under the shadow of your cross and fill us with the power of your resurrection. You have saved us and you are more than enough for us: our joy and our delight. Like Mary and Joseph we come with all we have, would you lead us into deeper encounter with You this season. Amen."
Written by Dave Small