We like to have confirmation that what we do is right.
When we marry, we want to be told by someone we trust and respect that we have made a good choice. We love to have our children complimented by baby sitters, relatives, teachers—even strangers. Any time we hear positive comments about choices we have made, or people close to us, we are reassured that everything is all right.
Mary and Joseph had each made a decision: Mary to accept God’s call on her life and bear God’s Son; Joseph to take Mary as his wife even though she was already pregnant. There was confirmation that they had done the right thing. Luke says the shepherds came to the manger, told them of the vision of angels they had seen, and worshiped their baby. Matthew tells us of a visit by magi, come from the east to pay homage to the newborn King. But it never hurts to have more confirmation. In a matter this important, the more people who reassure you the better.
Jewish law required that every firstborn male be redeemed. These children were holy—set apart for God. We remember that Samuel and John the Baptist, both of whom were firstborn children, were consecrated for God’s service. Redemption involved a sacrifice. If the parents were wealthy, a lamb was offered. If the parents were poor, then two turtledoves or pigeons were offered. Mary and Joseph believed it was important for them to fulfill the requirements of the law; so to the temple they went. They made the journey at the end of her time of purification, about a month and a half after Jesus’ birth.
Quite likely, even with the strange and wonderful things that had surrounded their child’s conception and birth, they still expected this trip to be routine. They had no reason to suspect otherwise; but it was not to be. Within the temple they had two encounters that confirmed both their expectations and their fears.
First they met Simeon, who had been told by God that he would not die until he saw the One who would be the salvation not only of Israel, but of the world. Simeon, by the power of the Holy Spirit, recognized this newborn baby as that One, and taking Jesus in his arms, he blessed the child and the parents. At the end of his blessing he added words that must have sent a chill through Mary and Joseph: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Not exactly the confirmation they were looking for.
Next they encountered Anna, a prophetess who lived in the temple. She also recognized Jesus’ divinity, and offered praise to God for his birth, telling any who would listen that this child was sent directly from the Holy One of Israel.
How would we feel if we heard these words about our children? Certainly we think they are special, and we want others to feel the same way about them; but we want only the best for them. Would we really want to know that our child might be God’s Anointed One? Wouldn’t that make us at least a bit afraid of what the future might hold for the baby we held in our arms? If we heard words such as Simeon said to Mary and Joseph, wouldn’t we draw back and shudder? Do we really want our children to suffer pain, and to cause us pain as well? What a burden to bear!
Yet this child was destined to fulfill all these prophecies and more. This is the child we confirm as the Son of God, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer, God’s plan for our salvation. We confirm his divinity when we decide to follow him, and he confirms us as his disciples through his grace.