Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Temple Story

Eight days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took their new baby to the temple. While you might not hear this piece of The Christmas Story very often, it is an important part of it. As a matter of fact, it occurs just after the scriptures we enjoyed yesterday about the shepherd's story.

The temple story is written in Luke 2:21-38:
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.”
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.”
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.

The visit to the temple was a very important part of the Law of Moses, so Joseph and Mary made the trip to the temple to fulfill the Law. It was just a little over a week since the birth of Jesus and parenthood was still very new to these inexperienced parents.

Often people gravitate toward a newborn baby. It isn't unusual for people to want to hold the baby, and offer sweet words of wisdom. But when Simeon does this, it is very special because his words are guided by the Holy Spirit. He holds Jesus, blesses him, and fulfills God's plan.

Joseph and Mary were clearly amazed by the whole scene. Their lives had changed in a remarkable way in just a few short months. They must have been shocked by the difference in their plans verses what God chose to do with their lives. It must have all seemed a bit surreal for them.

Their visit to the temple did fulfill their requirement to the Law, but it did so much more as well. Joseph and Mary were blessed by those worshiping there. They not only welcomed Joseph and Mary in and blessed their baby, but also believed. Those who were there were given the opportunity to meet the Savior face to face! Everyone in the temple that day must have felt the favor of God.

Joseph and Mary continued to encounter those who believed and rejoiced in the arrival the Savior! Not only was God with them, but He was providing earthly support as well!

Glory to God! A Savior is born! Blessings to those who Believe!

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