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 New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Within the passage in Luke found in Chapter 2 Verse 24, I found myself captivated by the gift of offering given as a sacrifice during Jesus’ service of purification. As it is written in the Law of Moses, a child is presented to the Lord along with a very specific sacrifice. As it reads in the English Standard Version, the sacrifice calls for “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
The imagery of two turtle doves, immediately brought me to the holiday classic, “Twelve Days of Christmas” which states that “on the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves.” As I researched a bit further, I found it quite difficult to find a reference to a turtle dove that was not somehow connected to a pair. For example, Ralph Vaughan Williams composed a haunting song about dedication to love despite its loss in which a turtle dove is described as “making a moan for the loss of his lover.” So too does William Shakespeare use the connective bond of the turtle dove when he penned an addition to a poem by Robert Chester in which he pairs the mythical phoenix to a turtle dove in an entwined tryst in which both ultimately meet their demise.
Nowhere in the history of the turtle dove is there a moment in which they have been known to be anything but committed to a strong and wonderful bond. Which is why I believe that the Law commands that the birds be more than two birds of similar breed as is noted with the pigeons, but instead, a pair.
Somehow, when the time came to make a list of what is acceptable for certain ceremonies, there was a designation of animals categorized by love. To separate the bond between two turtledoves would be to leave one roaming the earth searching for its estranged lover, mourning in its loss. So, to celebrate the romance of nature, if a sacrificial offering is to be made with a turtledove, then let it be made with its pair.
I think also of the story of Noah as he sailed aboard the ark after the cleansing of creation after the flood. The message of hope that came to him and his family came in the form of an olive branch clutched by a single dove. This dove, sent by Noah, was always destined to return, for her mate was held inside the Ark. And yet it says in Genesis 8 that the dove, when sent out a third time, did not return. That dove has still yet to return as it is wandering the earth searching for her mate with whom she is destined to be forever.
To think, the baby Jesus was matched at His birth to a pair of animals created to be eternally bonded to one another! A wonderful foreshadowing to the life that Jesus would lead. And to this day we have not seen His return. Yet there is a reminder of a vision, that somewhere there is a lover mourning His loss, awaiting the time when He will return to His love.
Recalibrate: What can you take from celebrating the birth of Jesus when measured against the foreshadowing of His death at His consecration that points you to a more hopeful future in your own life?
Respond: Pray that the love of God which has been promised to all of us to come again at the Second Coming may remain alive and well inside of you as we wait for His soon return.
Research: Read Five Ways to Let Go and Let God.
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 your child in your arms, ask whether you can remember what life was like before this little one came into your world. There is nothing we wouldn’t do to keep this precious one in our arms, safe and secure. Thirty-one years ago we brought our firstborn home just before Christmas. This Christmas is even more exciting as we are celebrating it with a two-year-old granddaughter. We feel like our hearts explode with joy with every new word she learns and thing she does. I cannot imagine life without our precious children, and while I am writing this I know that some of us have endured the unthinkable and have been separated from our children. This was never God’s plan. That is why Jesus came, to put love back together again. Live in love—even if you can’t hold your loved ones in your arms know that Jesus does . . . always.
Christmas is the season of gift giving. Are you thinking about what you are getting for Christmas or have you been busy planning what you are going to give? When Joseph and Mary took Baby Jesus to the temple, they brought with them a gift, a symbol of love and perfection. Whatever gifts you are giving or are given this Christmas, know that there is none better than the gift of love—perfect love—that Jesus has for you. When we give gifts without expecting a gift in return, this is true love.
So you may or may not keep up with the Star Wars franchise, but by now the new Star Wars movie, Rise of Skywalker, has been released in the USA. People were buying tickets early to see this movie and making predictions on the plot. My supervisor even took a whole day off work to see the movie and celebrate with other fans. But what some may not have thought about were the people that are so sick and knew they wouldn’t be alive to see the new movie. Disney made arrangements so that a terminally ill man could see the movie in his hospital room. This was what he wanted and he was able to see it before he died. While Star Wars is a big deal for many, imagine the anticipation if you knew Jesus was going to come! You’ve studied the Bible and know that Israel will be rescued! You also know that you’re much older and could die soon—but the Holy Spirit says that you will get to see Jesus before that happens. This was an answered prayer for one man named Simeon. We will explore more about him tomorrow.
Simeon was hanging on for one thing. Anna was hanging on for one thing. We don’t know for sure how old Simeon was (almost certainly younger than 50) but Anna actually was old enough that she remembered the days before Rome came to Jerusalem. More than sixty years before Jesus was born, a member of “The First Triumvirate,” Pompey, bid farewell to Julius Caesar and the boys in Rome to go subjugate Jerusalem. Anna was a young woman when that happened. She remembered her middle age years when a young Idumean named Herod came to Jerusalem—and left his amazing, horrible mark on the land. Anna and Simeon had seen so much, but there was one thing they had not seen, “the consolation of Israel.” They refused to die until that day. You have to admire that tenacity, and God seemed to like it, too.
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.