Summary: This message suggests Christmas is not over on December 25th.
Lk. 2:21-40 “Normal and Yet Not Quite”
Have you taken your Christmas decorations down yet? Have you taken the ornaments off the tree and the lights and put everything back into storage for another year?
Is Christmas already over for you? As Christians, we may need to be reminded that Christmas isn’t over with the birth of Christ, that as significant as that event is, and it definitely is, that the story of God entering our world in order to redeem it is still taking place.
And Luke doesn’t want us to forget this either because as he wrote his gospel, He included events that took place after the birth.
For instance, our text this morning mentions three significant events in the life of Jesus and two special encounters which are important for our understanding of the identity of Christ.
The first event after the birth story is Jesus’ circumcision. The author Luke records about this event, “when it was time”. According to the covenant relationship between God and Abraham, all males at the age of eight days were to be circumcised. And just like normal, at eight days old, He went to be circumcised and He was given the name Jesus, just as the angels had said.
The second event is mentioned more in passing than the other two but it’s the fact that Mary and Joseph waited for “their purification”. This time of 40 days after the birth of a child was a part of the law that had been given to Moses and even though Joseph is not the biological father, he felt the need to be purified with his wife Mary.
The third event is the presentation of the baby to the priest at the temple. And Luke tells us again that this was done because “it is written in the Law of the Lord.” And Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice at the temple of a pair of doves or two young pigeons and Luke tells us this was done “in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord”.
Luke, in recording these events, is essentially doing three things here.
First, he is letting us know that Mary and Joseph were faithful to the law. They were obedient to what God had called His people to.
These acts of circumcision, purification, presentation, and sacrifice were all a part of the covenantal relationship Israel had to God.
And so we see, in part, the reason why God chose to use Mary and Joseph to bring His Son into the world.
Secondly, we learn that Joseph and Mary are also faithful to their cultural context. It can sometimes be hard to understand all of these events because we don’t live in the same time as Mary and Joseph and yet, we can’t take them out of their setting because we are more comfortable with ours. Joseph and Mary did what was expected, not only by the law but also by their culture, by society.
The third thing Luke does by telling us about these events in the life of Jesus, and not just by telling us about these events but by telling us that these were required by law, by showing us that Mary and Joseph obeyed the law and social norms, is that Luke is telling us that Jesus was a normal baby.
Just as Mary experienced “normal” stages of development throughout her pregnancy and “normal” birth pains as she went through the labor experience, so too, Jesus was a “normal” baby who slept, and ate, and cried, and went potty, and whether He was aware of it, went through the “normal” experiences of any Jewish child born at the time. And Luke emphasizes this by making statements throughout this passage that talk about how the circumcision, the time of purification, the presentation were all done at the right time, according to the law, to do what the law required, when it was accomplished according to the law.
And whether or not we understand it, or believe it, Luke through these events is helping us to know that Jesus Christ was a “normal” boy.
Yet, there are also these two special encounters that take place and are recorded for us in our text this morning.
The first encounter is with a man by the name of Simeon. We are told he’s righteous and devout. Luke doesn’t call him a priest but he takes Jesus into his arms as Mary and Joseph have gone into the temple to present Jesus to the priest.
And Simeon has a promise from God that he would not die until he had seen the one who is the Christ. And on this particular day, he is moved by the Holy Spirit and enters the temple where he finds that which he has waited for his entire life.