Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Christmas Story, Day 3

The Christmas Story
Day 3

Yesterday I enjoyed reading about the birth of Jesus with you. It was such a holy night when our Lord came to earth. It made me happy to know He was loved and adored on that night, since He endured such awful things later on. Today Mary and Joseph take Him to the temple according to the law and they meet up with two people who recognize this Child as God's Son.

"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." (Luke 2:21 ) This was according to the law as it says in Leviticus 12:3, "On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised." This is another example that Mary and Joseph did their best to live by all the Lord's commands.

"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 '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 2:22-24) According to the law, forty days of purification followed the birth of a child, at which time the mother had to present a sacrifice. The preferred sacrifice was a year-old lamb for the burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for the sin offering. But the law made allowances for circumstances of poverty, which was a reality in the world then and is still a reality in the world now. Bringing a lamb could present a hardship to a low-income family, so if the mother couldn't afford a lamb she could bring two doves or two pigeons instead. (Leviticus 12:6-8) Because Joseph and Mary brought two birds we know they were too poor to afford a lamb.

Oh, but why bring a lamb when the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world was here? God's holy and spotless Lamb had come to earth to save the poor and the rich alike, to save the reverent and the wicked alike, to make children of God from all who would accept Him. Jesus Himself never made any kind of sacrifice that we know of. There's no record of it in the Scriptures. Though sacrifices were required by the law, they were made to atone for sin, and Jesus had no sin. In this area the law would not apply to Him because He was sinless. On the one hand, as a man we might expect to see Him follow every regulation to fulfill the law, but on the other hand if He had presented sin offerings His enemies could have falsely accused Him by saying, "Aha! We knew it! This man has sin in his life!" 

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.' The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'" (Luke 2:25-25)

This man Simeon had received a promise from God that he would live to see the Messiah. The Holy Spirit instructed him that the Savior was in the temple so he went over to see Jesus in person. Now Simeon could depart this life in peace knowing God's promise had come true. The preaching of the Lord Jesus was going to reveal to people what was truly in their hearts: whether or not they were right with God. Those who eagerly heard Him were convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sinful state and they found in Him a Savior. Jesus would lift up those who had turned to Him from wicked lives. But many would also fall: those who thought they were righteous by their own works, because they were the seed of Abraham, because they were God's covenant people, but these were the ones Jesus referred to as hypocrites because on the outside they appeared religious but on the inside their hearts were far from God. 

Simeon prophetically tells Mary, "And a sword will pierce your own soul too." I think this prophecy is twofold like most of the prophecies in the Bible. Just as the Lord Jesus would be pierced by a sword on the cross, Mary would be pierced to the soul at the same time, witnessing the death of her precious boy. Some of my readers may have lost children and you know exactly how Mary felt. Also I believe that the sword of the Holy Spirit was going to pierce her soul and show her that she needed a Savior just as we all need a Savior. Mary was aware that she wasn't perfect for we see her keeping the law and bringing the required sacrifices for sin. But after the resurrection of Jesus she believed on Him as Savior. At that time she fully understood all the things she had formerly marveled at and kept in her heart.

"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, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 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) At the temple that day Jesus bestowed the same honor on both a man and a woman who were waiting for the Messiah. These two were granted the privilege of seeing the face of the One whose appearance they longed for. In a patriarchal society women were often treated as the lesser sex, as if they weren't as important as men, but in the ministry of Jesus we find Him treating women with respect and dignity. He even taught women, which a rabbi didn't do. This is why Martha and Mary (the sisters of Lazarus) loved Him so, because Jesus believed their instruction was as important as the men's. We all are equally valuable to Him and we all are equally loved by Him.

"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him." (Luke 2:39-40) Jesus went home with Joseph and Mary and grew strong in this household where the Lord was respected. The Lord Jesus was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was on Him. Someday this Child would become a man and go to the cross for us all, pouring out the grace of God on all mankind.

At His first advent the Lord was loved and respected only by those whose hearts longed to be close to God. The Lord Jesus, King of all creation, Maker of heaven and earth, lived humbly His entire life. Instead of sitting on Davids throne at His first advent, our Lord was born in a stable. Instead of having all mankind bow down to Him as King, they hung Him on a cross. But someday Jesus Christ will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, magnificent in glory, mighty in power, and the government of this world will be on His shoulders. Righteousness will reign. Peace will prevail. Love will be the law. Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus our King!

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