Jesus Presented in the Temple
Open Your Bible
Luke 2:21-40, Leviticus 12:6-8, John 19:25-27
December 26th is one of my favorite days of the year. Usually, the days leading up to Christmas include all the fanfare of baking cookies, opening presents, attending church, singing carols and hymns, and lighting Advent candles. And then the next day comes with an opportunity to enjoy it all again—this time just a little bit slower. It calls for flannel pajamas all day, making turkey sandwiches from Christmas dinner leftovers, playing with gifts, and eating up the rest of those cookies.
The events are over, but the lights are still twinkling. The traditions have been completed, but our hearts are filled with significance and satisfaction of our hope in Christ. Over the next few days, we will start to put away the decorations and throw away the gift wrap, but there are a few things we take with us into the new year—a refreshed sense of truth and celebration, and acknowledgement of the incomparable gift we have in Jesus.
Today’s reading is a perfect reminder of this, as it brings us to one of the most important traditions Jesus completed. On the eighth day of His life, as was customary, He was circumcised and presented in the temple. There, two aging prophets, Simeon and Anna, saw the child in the temple and prophesied that He is the Messiah, and then went on to praise God for allowing them to see the Lord’s salvation in the flesh (Luke 2:25–38).
In the book of Genesis, God promises to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation, formed from the womb of a barren woman (Gn 17:1–8,17–19). As a reminder of this miraculous origin story and a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham, every Jewish male was to bear the mark of circumcision. Jesus didn’t need to be circumcised as a reminder of the promise—He was the very fulfillment of the promise.
Even from the very beginning, Jesus is identified with His parents, who were sinners, waiting on the fullness of that promise to come to fruition, and so they obeyed the requirements of the law: “When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22).
While it would be easy for this story to be overshadowed by the pomp and circumstance of His birth and the days that followed, Jesus’s circumcision is one of the most profound reminders of who He has always been: both perfectly divine and human. We see so many displays of Christ’s innate humanity in this passage. He wasn’t born into a family that was holier than most. Mary and Joseph continue to surrender themselves and their Son in humble obedience, following the law and trusting God when they could not see their next right step.
The offering of turtledoves is also one of my favorite details of this passage. Traditionally, new parents made an offering after childbirth in order to purify the mother after having given birth; the substitution of two birds was allowed if the were not able to afford a lamb. Jesus wasn’t born into perfect circumstances or an extremely wealthy family, but that only put His innate perfection on display. He fulfilled the law and took our punishment, not because we have done enough to deserve it, but because He is enough.
So now that we’ve lit all the Advent candles and given all of our presents, we are reminded that the love of Jesus is a gift we get to keep all year long, for all time. He is perfect, He is human, and He is exactly what we need—yesterday, today, and always. Amen.