Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
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.”
The lives of my three daughters are very well-documented. Even before they were born, my wife and I were posting ultrasound pictures on Facebook. Literally thousands of iPhone pictures, videos, and Instagram posts later, no moment in their life seems left out (and I’m sure they’ll thank us for all this someday).
But they don’t have the one thing I do: a baby book. A tangible record of the photos, cards, clippings, and hand-written milestones my mother kept of my first few years. In a baby book, there’s only so much space, so only the big moments make it to look back on later.
The first two chapters of Luke’s gospel could be considered Jesus’ baby book. And today’s text is one of those really big moments that usually doesn’t make the Christmas pageant.
Joseph and Mary have taken Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for a sacred event that would bring a lot of joy to first-time parents: dedicating their firstborn to the Lord. Like all Hebrew boys, Jesus was circumcised at eight days old as an outward sign that he was in the covenant of Abraham.
Then he was officially named, and names were more than just titles in the Bible. Your name was also considered part of your nature. Names said something about your character and identity, and they were traditionally given by the father.
Then came the sacrifice. Having lost blood at birth and so considered unclean, Mary was required to bring a lamb and a dove for a sacrifice of purification. The lamb was for the burnt offering atoning for sin, and the dove was for the purification offering.
Luke only says that she brought two doves, and that gives something away. If the mother couldn’t afford a lamb, the Law said she could bring two doves instead.
The common interpretation says this shows Jesus and his family were poor, another sign of God identifying with the marginalized first. That is true, but like we saw previously, there’s more to the story . . . and it’s all about identity.
One chapter later Jesus is grown:
One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” (Luke 3:21–22)
Do you see it? At Jesus’ baptism the purifying Holy Spirit came down like a dove, and the Heavenly Father publicly declared the identity of Jesus as his dearly loved Son. Like we saw in the last chapter, God is intentional in all things. No part of the story is frivolous, and so Jesus in the temple sets up Jesus in the Jordan.
We’ve got a covenant, a dove, and a naming.
Now consider this:
When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision’the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. (Col. 2:11–12)
Baptism is all about identity. It is a sign that we are in the new covenant because the Lamb of God was sacrificed to atone for our sins.
It is a sign that we are being given a new nature through the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is a sign that our identity is now “God’s dearly loved son or daughter,” and we bring him great joy.
This is good news.
So come, let us adore him.
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