“When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-23)
Now, as then, children are brought before God, thanking the Divine for new life. And asking the Divine for strength, guidance, and wisdom to raise the child well. Family and friends gather around to support the parents and the child. Celebrations are held and there is rejoicing. However, Mary and Joseph were probably alone, without family. But God provided these young parents and this holy child with support nonetheless.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:24-32)
Do you think, beloved reader, that these young parents might have felt a bit bewildered? It was challenging enough taking care of a new born infant in an unfamiliar city, but to raise up a son who would do all the things prophesied about him. Many new parents need advice and assurance, blessing and encouragement and I am glad to read that Mary and Joseph received this. But that was not all that they received. They were told early on that their son would be special, bringing to mind what the angel told Mary and Joseph, and added to by these experiences during the early days of Jesus’ life.
“And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)
One of the things I never tire of reading in the nativity story is that Mary pondered things in her heart. I think that is one of the reasons she was chosen as the mother of Jesus. She could hear all these things, think about them in her heart, and yet carry on doing the tasks that were expected of her as a wife and mother. She was not alone is this trait as a woman and a woman of God.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”(Luke 2:36-37)
It is my hope that Mary received good advice and support, not only in being a young wife but also being a mother to a very special child. I suspect that God, over the years, provided both Mary and Joseph with the support they needed.
“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.(Luke 2:38-40)
At this point the gospels grow silent. What stories there are about Jesus’ growing up years are apocryphal in nature. Perhaps it is enough to know that during the years that Jesus to adulthood, God granted resources and blessing so the years past smoothly. And the epistles give fuller evidence that God has chosen and ordained that it would be so.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
Just God prepared the way for Jesus to grow into the Christ, God has also prepared a way for us to grow into being children of God. Being fully human, we sometimes lose our way and need to come back crying out “Abba”, recommitting and renewing ourselves through God’s grace and mercy, so that we might be still and again children of God. Selah!