While still living in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem. According to the Mosaic law, when a male child reaches the age of eight days, he was to be circumcised as part of the covenant God made with his people. His name at that time officially was designated to be Jesus. This was in accordance with the instructions that the angel gave to Mary.
Also, according to the Law, the new mother needed to perform certain religious compliances after giving birth. This was part of the purification ritual in which she gave a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons as a sacrifice to reinstate herself healthy before the Lord and the community.
While there, the family met a very devout man named Simeon. The Bible says that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him. The old man took Jesus in his arms. He said before Mary and Joseph, “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Naturally, Mary and Joseph marveled in response to what the man said.
Simeon blessed both of them but told Mary, “This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
He was promised by God that he would not die until he saw the child of salvation. In his joy, he announced his readiness to leave his body and be with God.
This was a prophecy of the agony Mary would experience while Jesus was in his ministry and more importantly while he hung on the cross. Certainly, any mother would be devastated to look up to a cross where her beloved son was nailed innocently. At this point she still did not understand the full concept of God’s plan. Through Simeon she was given a hint of what lay ahead for Jesus and for herself.
No sooner did they finish the conversation with Simeon when they met a woman who was identified as a prophetess. Her name was Anna. She was very old. She was only married seven years when her husband passed away. For the next eighty-four years she remained at the temple serving God with fasting and prayer both day and night. One might wonder how such a woman would turn to God with such dedication after her life was turned upside down by the early death of her young husband.
She gave thanks to the Lord that she was able to meet the infant Jesus. Afterwards, she told many people that looked for redemption. She did not just tell everyone. One might consider her to be the first missionary for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her message went to those eager to hear the good word that God was reaching out to mankind.
After these two encounters, the family eventually went to Nazareth. Other than informing biblical readers that Jesus grew, waxed strong in spirit, was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him, no more is said in the Bible until Jesus was twelve years old.
Mary and Joseph continued their dedication to the Lord through their obedience to the law. Sacrifice of birds was not for Jesus because he had no sin because he was an infant. The sacrifice was for Mary’s reinstatement as a vital wife and mother. Simeon was blessed so that he might be a blessing to this chosen couple. God was faithful to Simeon allowing him to live long enough to see Jesus.
In the history of the church Anna was not given much recognition after this passage of Scripture, but she was a star among the saints for how she lived serving God for so many, many years. Her heart was so full of excitement from meeting Jesus that she had to tell others.
What does all this mean to us? Notice that the people in this portion of Luke 2 were all devout with their primary goal to serve God. This included the coming death of a man, the pending release of such a fantastic woman from her suffering of old age, and the prophecy that Mary was not going to have a pleasant future.
After about twelve years, she would lose her husband Joseph. Then a few years later she would lose her eldest son to the ministry who would three years after that die on the cross for the redemption of the world. These people never had a thought to give up in their service to God.
The challenges are to us! How faithful would we be if God laid an unhappy future on us? Who among us would welcome experiences like these people were destined to have? Can we muster ourselves spiritually to become so devout whether death of ourselves or loved one, or the prolonged wait for God to reveal his will in our lives, or for an uncertain future that lays ahead of us that we will not give up on ourselves and not give up on God?
When you say Merry Christmas, say it is a promise to yourself and God that you will be solid in your commitment as you serve him.