THIS PICTURE IS BY AN ARTIST, RON DICIANNI. IT IS FROM ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS ENTITLED “BEYOND WORDS” THE PAINTING IS ENTITLED “HEAVEN’S LOSS” WHEN JESUS BECAME FLESH, HEAVEN LOST IT’S SON FOR A TIME, BUT WHAT IS HEAVEN’S LOSS BECAME OUR GAIN!
I hope I am not boring everyone because it seems as if I am going on and on with The Very First Christmas being as how this is now January 6th and according to Jewish custom, we are 13 days past Christmas. The 12th day of Christmas has even come and gone. Are you asking me if I am still soaring with the Ghost of Christmas past? Let’s get on with things shall we. Don’t you think I should be flying with the Ghost of Christmas Present? Yeah I guess you right. Let’s move on to day 40 of Jesus’ life here on earth.
“Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD.” So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.””
Luke 2:22-24 NLT
“The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.
“ ‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. “ ‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ””
Leviticus 12:1-4, 6-8 NIV
I have been in a reflective mode since the beginning of this year. My dad use to say, “I recollect…” I guess I have been recollecting for the past six days. The year of 2015 brought joys and sorrow, pain and healing. I told my daughter yesterday, “My past is what has shaped me into who I am today, but my past doesn’t have to enslave me.” I have a tendency as I go through this January and become melancholy. My family keeps saying to each other, “January is going to be a hard month.” My dad died January 19th, 2015. My father-in-law died January 23rd, 2014. It is a month that reminds me of sorrow. Dad’s birthday was January 26th. I hate writing the word “was.” As I was recollecting… God spoke to my heart, “Your loss is also your dad’s gain.” My dad believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me his testimony. He spoke it again to me about a month before he died. Really! My loss is my dad’s gain. And you know what else? Kevin and I celebrated our 36th year of marriage yesterday. Sweet!!! Throughout the day I had to keep reminding myself, “This is my anniversary. Don’t let sorrow cause you to miss it!” I am most thankful for that man. I cannot even list the things he has helped me go through. He has been my constant companion, friend, and lover for all these years and he has stuck by me through thick and thin, good times and bad times, and I know he will be with me to the end. God has grown us, matured us, and revived us all at the same time. Just as I have said the past, with all its successes and failures, has shaped us into the couple we are now. This juncture we find ourselves in is the intersection of following the Lord’s leading and reaping His blessing, and following our own desires and reaping God’s consequences. This is my shout out to the man of my dreams who has walked beside me these 36 plus years. I am very thankful you are in my life, Kevin Paul Jones.
Yesterday was a teaching day for me. The past has shaped me. The sorrows it carries pains me still. The joys of the past enable me to remember God’s goodness. I cannot escape all the lessons of the past but I can carry them with me, and if I will let it, the past can propel me into the Exceedingly Abundant life God has for me.
So we cross over. We climb those temple steps just as Mary and Joseph did carrying the infant who was both Son and Savior. That very first Christmas, the day of Jesus’ birth has come and gone. And so has the years of B.C. B.C. truly does mean before Christ. There has been no other historical character that has ever changed the calendar. Only one man can claim that distinction. His name is Jesus. It is now day 40 of the year 1 A.D. A.D. is an abbreviation for “Anno Domini” which translates to “the year of Our Lord.” We have just begun the years following Jesus birth. The number 40 symbolizes a time of testing and trial. The number 40 relates to a time of humility, of humbling before God.
The past may shape us but it may not enslave us. But the past also has very valuable lessons we must learn so that we can be propelled into Jesus’ abundant life He has for us. On this day we read about Mary and Joseph, they were following the law of Moses written thousands of years before this moment. Mary and Joseph, because they are devout followers of Mosaic law, follow the law to the letter. God says of Joseph, “being a just and upright man.” He calls Mary, “Highly favored.” They were faithful servants of the Most High God so of course they would obey levitical law. On this 40th day of Jesus life, they wrap the baby up and travel from Bethlehem up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. They would have climbed up the temple steps. This is the first day Mary would have traveled any sort of distance. But it was time to get moving. It was time to get engaged with life again. She had been excluded from church life for long enough. Her days of her purification are over now. Get going. Climb up. Put one foot in front of the other and carry your Son, the Son of God up those temple steps. Engage in worship again. Worship the One who sent You this Child. Present your offering of purification. It was the offering of the poor. It was the offering of the peasant people. Two turtle doves. Liz Curtis Higgs writes in her book, “The Women of Christmas,” “Mary had no sacrificial lamb, but in her arms she held the Lamb of God. She was not ashamed to bring an offering of pigeons. She brought what she could.”
On this day Mary would have laid her hands on the pigeons. The priest serving at that time took would have taken them from her hands and carried them to the southwest corner of the altar, wringing one bird’s neck as a sin offering and burning the other as a whole burnt offering. She was now cleansed heart, soul, mind, and body. She could now present her Son. The Author of the law was presented before The One who wrote the law in stone, His Father, His Abba. Again the irony of this day. He who had instructed how to purify oneself is now being carried in the arms of one who needed purification. Son of God was now being presented up to God Most High. The absurdity of it all is the miracle of this Presentation. Only Our Loving Heavenly Father would stoop so low so that He could help us climb up our steps into our abundant life. Only He could come up with a plan unfathomable. And only He can help us carry our past so that it shapes us into the people He is calling us to be.
Rise up! Climb those temple steps! It is time to engage in worship again! Christ came once to purify us and save us from our sins, He is coming back again to receive us unto Himself; to restore all that has been lost so that it will become our gain!