Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Regifting the Presence
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 2:22-38 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: While the original quote is attributed to Uncle Ben of Spiderman, the notion of “great responsibility” being attached to “great power” has its roots in realms beyond the Marvel Universe. In Luke 2:23, we read about the cultural requirements of being born male in society. The English Standard Version (ESV) includes a section of Scripture written in between parentheses that gives readers insight into the significance of the firstborn son to any family. There it reads, “every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.”
With no input from the child upon his bar mitzvah or in conjunction with his plans of who he feels called to become in this world, the first son in the family is dedicated to the Lord and deemed holy. That is a massive amount of power to take in on your eighth day on earth, let alone on your greatest day as an adult! And still, the power is provided to the child and he is locked into his position both here on earth and in heaven.
What is he to do with all this power? Obviously we know the future of this particular Baby and the work He will do with His power. But this Law of Moses was applied also to sons who weren’t gifted with an inherent identity of deity. These parents knew their child was something special and were aware that God was already present in their baby. But they still took the time to dedicate Him in Jerusalem, as was required by the law.
There is something to be said for the power of the customary even as we struggle with the drone of traditional regularity. The law dictates that there is a significance in arriving at power because of the association with the Lord and not with the subject attached to it. When we think of power as coming from a source beyond comprehension, as it pertains to power and glory, nothing about our connection to it will be ordinary. Mary and Joseph understood this and made the trip to Jerusalem to present their child to the Lord so that He would be consecrated and holy. But not all of us were born as the first male child in our family. So our mission from ordinary to holy comes in a completely different package deal. But holiness is accessible to everyone regardless of gender or family assignment. The choice to be dedicated is available to us all, but it takes a willingness to go somewhere we are not currently stationed so we can have an encounter with the Lord. From there, our understanding and our power will be unlike anything we have seen before. And with that power, comes great responsibility. Are you ready for it?
Recalibrate: How might God be preparing you for great power in the new year? What are some changes in your status that may be signaling where God is calling you next? How might you go about moving from where you are to where He is taking you?
Respond: Pray today that God may bestow upon you a measure of His power in order to help you see above the fray and work within the Kingdom authority given to you by the One who works to bring His power to you and through you to those in need of hope.
Research: Read What Does it Mean to be Holy?
Remember: “Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child” (Luke 2:38, ICB).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Holding the hand of your child, go for a walk around your home or your community and take in the Christmas sights. Enjoy the sparkle of lights and glitter on trees. Linger in the beauty of Christmas as it is meant to be, holding hands and hearts with the ones we love. In the text this week, Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the temple. All the custom and tradition amount to one thing: giving to God what He has given to us—life and love. The best Christmas present is being in the presence of love and knowing that it is for you. Enjoy every minute!
Have you ever waited for something for a long time? The day after Christmas feels kind of sad because we know it’s going to be another 364 days until next Christmas. However for today, Christmas is three days away! I can hardly wait! Anna and Simeon had been waiting their whole life for the Messiah, Jesus, to arrive. Can you imagine their excitement when Mary and Joseph walked in carrying Him as a baby? They knew who He was because they had been looking and waiting for Him. As you are waiting for Christmas to arrive, are you counting the sleeps? Me too! Imagine how well Anna and Simeon both slept that night after they had finally met Jesus.
How did you get ready when you woke up this morning? What’s part of your routine? Did you brush your teeth, wash your face, have some breakfast? II wonder if your routine would change if you knew you’d be presented to the Lord this morning. While Jesus didn’t quite know what was going on because He was a baby, His parents knew they were going to the temple the day of the passage we are studying this week. While Jesus may have been clean by His parents’ efforts, He was going to be purified in another way, through the Law of Moses’ purification rites. Read Luke 2:24 to read more about the sacrifice.
In Judaism, it’s called “the bris.” It’s “the cutting” of the male child to mark Him as part of the covenant family of Abraham. Our Bible gives us one verse on that in Jesus’ life, Luke 2:21. It then goes on to expand more of the Leviticus 5 and 12 ritual regarding the sacrifice for purification that Mary had to make in the early weeks of her “mommyhood.” Those two Luke passages tell us that from the beginning the life of Jesus was going to be dictated by the command of His Father. Jesus was special and that’s all the more reason for Him to be held to account in matters of the law. God gave no “exceptions” for this Child. He commanded no special treatment. Every one of us might have felt like He could fudge a bit on some of this stuff because Jesus was, after all, a bit better than the rest of us. Right? That’s not Heaven’s way. “To whom much is given, much is required.” Those who would be closest to God are the last ones to assume that they are better than everyone else. Not a bad lesson for all of us.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.