Text: Luke 2:22-40
Can you imagine? I bet you’ve never seen a baby dedication go quite like that. It’s been 40 days since Jesus was born. The shepherds are back with their flocks. The taxes have been settled. I suspect Mary and Joseph were hoping for a quiet, normal visit to the temple in Jerusalem to offer their sacrifice, pray and worship together—just as any new family would. They plan to present their son Jesus to the priest on duty, but right before Nancy can take the new baby and show him off to the gathered congregation, this fella Simeon bounds up the steps of the temple, dashes through the courtyard and snatches up the baby, proclaiming “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples.” As if that wasn’t enough, a seasoned prophet (depending on your interpretation of the ancient text, she was either 84-years-old, or had lived as a widow for 84 years after her husband died) comes up behind them and begins to echo Simeon’s proclamation, drawing other passersby in to tell them about the great things this baby is sure to do.
Can you imagine? What a turn for your baby dedication to take. Poor Joseph and Mary. That was my first thought in reading through this text. Then I began to think of some of the older, wiser people in my life and the way they are quick to dote on new born babies and offer words of encouragement for the youth and children among us, and this scene became a little easier for me to visualize. Just a little.
As I have meditated on this passage, my thoughts have been drawn to Simeon and Anna, and the faith that would move two tireless laborers for God’s Commonwealth to look on a month-old baby, born into poverty, and say with confidence “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples.” The blessing of Simeon and Anna is the final of four “songs” that appear in Luke’s birth narrative—following verses of blessing by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, the Magnificat of Mary, and a lengthy hymn of blessing uttered by Zechariah following the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John. All four of the songs point to Jesus and the special way God is at work in his life, but each has its own context. The blessing of Simeon and Anna comes 40 days after Jesus’ birth, when Jewish customs of the time as prescribed by Leviticus, called for a new mother to bring an offering to the temple following a period of waiting—40 days after the birth of a son, or 80 days after the birth of a daughter. [Read more…]