As I watch the shepherds exit the scene at the manger full of rejoicing, Luke is silent about the immediate days after the birth until the eighth day. This is when we read that circumcision occurs and this Son of God born to Mary and Joseph is officially named Jesus as the angel had spoken before Jesus was conceived.
I cannot help but wonder how long Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. No doubt they were still there for this event. What is not stated is whether they remained there until the days of Mary’s purification were completed which would have been 40 days.
Mary would have been recovering from the birth and they needed to accomplish all that the law required of them before the return home. The number of days of purification were determined because this was a male child and it would mean going to Jerusalem which was only about seven miles from Bethlehem.
If I imagine them staying in Bethlehem for almost a month and a half, I wonder if they stayed in the stable the entire time or if they found other lodging as the crowded city thinned out a bit. Perhaps by then some relative’s home had enough room for them. That would have also been a source of other provisions as well beyond simply a roof over their heads.
The Law of Moses required this purification at the forty-day mark for a male child. She was also to bring a burnt offering to the Temple. A lamb was required, but if the couple was poor they were permitted to bring a turtledove for the burnt offering. A sin offering was also required at the same time and this would have been another turtledove or pigeon. If these were too expensive, then fine flour, as an offering would be accepted.
Luke tells us in the passage about the turtledoves being brought so it clearly suggests that Mary and Joseph were poor. They were not in abject poverty or we would be reading about flour.
As I read this and so many Old Testament passages I am reminded of how many animals were slaughtered, how much blood was spilled over and over again to cover the sins of the people, to attain atonement. And it was never enough.
My heart overflows with gratitude for the “perfect lamb” offered as a sacrifice once to atone for all my sins when I receive Him.
As the scene in the Temple opens with Mary and Joseph making the sacrifices required by Mosaic Law, we have his name pronounced. Jesus.
Then a man, Simeon, whom Luke describes as devout and righteous, enters the scene. Luke tells us Simeon came into the Temple “in the Spirit”. We learn that this is no ordinary man because he has been patiently waiting for the consolation of Israel, the Messiah. God had promised him that he would not die before he saw this child. What an incredible promise and gift!! What an honor for Simeon!
And now the one, who has been so blessed, takes Jesus in his arms. I can only imagine the joy that flowed through Simeon as he gazed into the face of this baby, Jesus, Son of God, Consolation of Israel, and the Messiah.
Simeon blesses the child and praises God while also proclaiming who Jesus was as well as His purpose of salvation. He also blesses Mary and Joseph. Then he speaks prophetically to and about Mary telling her what this child was appointed to be and do. Did a chill run through her when he said a sword would pierce through her own soul? How she must have wondered at it all and Luke tells us she and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said.
But God was not done confirming His Word. The prophetess, Anna, a widow of 84, also is in the Temple at just the time this was all happening. Anna worshipped with prayer and fasting day and night according to Luke. She appears to be standing with Simeon as he has been speaking possibly and she appears to affirm as well this child would provide for the redemption of Jerusalem.
I know this story is familiar to you as it is to me, but as I slowly pause as I read these passages I am once again struck by the multiple details God aligned from the very beginning assuring Jesus would be born at the exact place and time He had said would occur.
How often does the Lord bring about details that may seem like a coincidence in our lives that actually lead us as He, the Good Shepherd, would choose as a result His love and care for us?