It must have been pretty amazing when the shepherds showed up with stories about heralding angels and the light of God’s glory shining all around them. As Mary held the Lord Jesus and washed His tiny hands and feet, what did she think of these grand events? Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have talked!
The time came for Mary and Joseph to circumcise Jesus. Circumcision was a very important symbol for the people of Israel. It was a sign through the flesh of the sons of Israel, that God had set the nation apart for Himself. They were to be holy, and they were to be a light and a blessing to all the other nations. Now the Great Light, the Savior of the world, had come and His parents would obey God by honoring the powerful symbols of their covenant with Him. They took Jesus to the great Temple in Jerusalem to present Him to their God.
The firstborn sons in the families of Israel were to be consecrated (or set apart) for the Lord in another special way. Each family was required to offer a special sacrifice. According to the Law, common families were to bring a pair of doves or two young pigeons to the Temple priests. The priests would act as mediators and take the birds to God’s altar and sacrifice them for the families. The Lord promised that these sincere offerings from the hearts of His people would be a pleasing aroma to Him. Joseph and Mary loved their Lord, and they were careful to honor all the customs that their Jewish faith required.
Now on the very day Mary and Joseph to Jesus to the Temple, a devout and faithful man named Simeon was moved by the Spirit of God to go there as well. For years and years, he longed for the day when God would move and bring the Consolation of Israel. He longed to see the Messiah. The Holy Spirit told him that before he died, he would see the Anointed One. Now Simeon had grown old, and on this special day, God was going to keep His promise. When Joseph and Mary came into the courtyard of the Temple, Simeon knew this child was the One he had waited for. He took the Child in his arms and lifted his voice in praise to God:
“‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’”
As Mary and Joseph listened to the words of this good man, they marveled. God was at work revealing the very same truths to others that he had shown them through angels and dreams! How they must have wondered what was in store for their Son. How would He bring this wonderful salvation? How would He be a light to all the Gentile nations of the world? And how would He bring glory to their own nation? What mighty things were in store for this tiny creature in their arms?
Then Simeon turned to Mary and Joseph and blessed the parents of the Christ child. He spoke to Mary a message of sorrow and truth, “‘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 heart, too.’”
The truth of these words must have grown deeper and more powerful to Mary as she watched her baby grow to be a man. Did she teach them to Jesus as a boy? I wonder if she thought about them when all of Israel was being turned upside down by His preaching and miracles? As she watched her Son boldly confront the corruption of the most powerful men in Jerusalem, and as they rejected the salvation of God, did these words come to Mary’s mind? Did they come to her as she watched her Son die on the cross? Surely that horrific day pierced her soul like a vicious sword. God knew these trials were coming, and her gentle, compassionate Lord was aware of the terrible cost ahead. God was preparing her heart for the trial through the warnings of Simeon.
As Joseph and Mary kept the customs of the Jewish faith at the Temple, and honored all of the requirements of God’s Holy Law, the Lord brought yet another faithful servant along. Her name was Anna and she was a prophetess. She was the daughter of Phanuel. Of the twelve tribes of Israel, she came from the tribe of Asher. She was married as a young woman, but her husband only lived seven years. For the rest of her life, she devoted herself to worship in the Temple. Day and night she fasted and prayed to God.
By the time of Christ’s coming she had grown very old. Now she was eighty-four, and God blessed her faithfulness with revelation. She knew that this tiny boy was the Messiah. She went up to Mary and Joseph and praised the Lord, declaring that this was the day that the Messiah had come to the very courts of the Temple of the living God! Then she went out and told everyone who was looking forward by faith to the redemption of Israel. And Mary treasured all of these memories in her heart and pondered them.
Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him
Away in a Manger and What Child is This