December 26, 2021

December 26, 2021

December 26, 2021

Danny Nettleton
Clergy, Bridle Creek Circuit
New River District

Luke 2:22-24 (NRSV)

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Devotion
Two Turtle Doves

Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb.

The twelfth chapter of Leviticus commands Israelite women to present themselves in the temple 33 days after giving birth to be declared ritually pure by the Priest. During the ritual she is to offer a year old lamb for a burnt offering and a dove for a sin offering. In addition, when a first born son is born, the book of Exodus commands that the parents offer a lamb as a sacrifice to consecrate the boy unto the Lord.

Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb.

But they were good Jews and they wanted to fulfill every requirement. Luckily, the Torah makes provisions for those who can’t afford a lamb. Leviticus 12:8 says that if you cannot afford a lamb, you can bring two doves instead. Even in the sacrificial system we see reminders of the LORD’s generosity and grace. God cares deeply for the poor and wants them to be able to participate fully in worship. So he accepts two turtle doves in place fo a lamb which is good because…

Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb.

Even two doves takes a little doing. I mean, who has those laying around. They’re not easy to catch. Joseph and Mary probably didn’t own a bird cage either. Luckily for them, they were able to buy some doves when they got to Jerusalem. They could buy some from the marketplace but if you wanted to be absolutely sure they would be accepted by the priest, it was best to buy them at the temple. In the temple courtyard there were always a few tables set up where you could exchange money for the animals needed for a sacrifice. During Holy days there were a lot of these tables. During Passover, the courtyard was chock full of them. When Joseph and Mary’s boy grew up he would not be a fan of these tables. But today, it was pretty convenient. These two young parents could plunk down their shekels and get any animal they needed for their sacrifice. They could buy a year old lamb without blemish there if they wanted to. But..

Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb.

So two doves it was. Two doves to offer to the LORD in place of their first born son. This was in recognition of the fact that the first born belonged to God and he could demand it as a sacrifice. But Jesus wouldn’t be sacrificed today. He would get to grow in wisdom and stature. But we wouldn’t be raised in the Temple like Samuel or in the palace like Moses… he would be raised by two parents who didn’t have a lot of money. He would be raised by a father who built things with his hands and charged a fair price. He would be raised by a mother who would stretch the flour when Joseph was between projects. Jesus would grow up knowing what it was to hear his belly growl and have to rely on God for daily bread. When Jesus was older, his cousin John who actually grew up with wealth to renounce would point to him and say, “Look, everybody! It’s the lamb of God… he’ll take away the sins of the world!” Then Jesus would belong to the world… but right now he belonged to two struggling youngsters doing their best for him. They tried. They really did. But truth be told…

Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb.

But that’s probably for the best. Because you and I have a savior who understands. Who knows what it is to squint at the medical bills and the college tuition and wonder how you’re gonna do it. We have a savior who gets the embarrassment of having to put things back at the grocery check out line when everybody’s watching. We have a savior who gets what it’s like to be harassed by debt collectors demanding an arm and a leg. I wonder if he thought of his own parents struggles with debt when he told his disciples to be forgiving of other’s debts? Perhaps we need a God who understands debt because only a God like that would be willing to give up his body and blood to see us free of it. Only a God like that would stand in for the sacrifice that the law demands of us. And I’m thankful that he did. Because even if I had all the gold in all the hills and all the pearls in all the seas… it wouldn’t be enough to pay back the debt of gratitude I owe. Because like Mary and Joseph…

I can’t afford a lamb.

Prayer

Heavenly Father we thank you so much for giving us the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, who freed us from the debt of sin and death. Help us to be as generous with others who can’t afford a lamb. Amen.