Luke 2:21-24 (CEV)
21Eight days later Jesus’ parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands. And they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told Mary when he promised she would have a baby.
22The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born.
They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord, 23just as the Law of the Lord says, “Each first-born baby boy belongs to the Lord.” 24The Law of the Lord also says that parents have to offer a sacrifice, giving at least a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So that is what Mary and Joseph did.
I had to read this passage a bunch of times to decide what I was going to say about it. On the surface it seems to be a bunch of old Israelite religious rules that Luke wants us to know were followed when it came to Jesus. But since in general we’re not Jewish converts to Christianity, or Jews considering Christianity, why does this matter to us?
And then I realised something subtle about this passage – Joseph, who we basically haven’t heard anything from up to this point – is present in all of the actions taken for Jesus. In other words, Joseph, who didn’t get a say in any of this “raising God” business, has somehow been willing to accept this child and claim him as his own. (We do get a bit of an idea how that came about over in Matthew 1:18-25, if you’re interested.)
So it got me thinking that sometimes we don’t get a say in every single step that life takes for us. Sometimes things happen, and we just have to decide how we’re going to respond to them.
Back in January our eldest child told us that they didn’t want to be called by the name that we gave them, that they didn’t identify with the gender everyone assumed they were. And whatever your personal views on the subject, this kind of a change has big implications in life, and it might not have been our first choice to go through this process at the time.
But we didn’t get a choice in whether this was happening or not. What we did have a choice over was whether we were going to continue to accept our child and continue to claim them as our own.
That meant learning to use a new name and new pronouns. It meant loving this child with a fierce and tenacious love that kept on caring for their every day needs, took them shopping in a new section of stores and had long conversations about hard issues. It meant wrestling through lots of emotions for all of us. And it meant continuing to be faithful to the promises we made years ago when we dedicated ourselves before God to the task of raising this child, to the best of our abilities, to be their best authentic self.
For Joseph, choosing to say ‘yes’ meant taking Mary to be his wife, even though she was pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his. Choosing to say ‘yes’ meant accepting the stares and the questioning looks and the judgments he got from those around him. Choosing to say ‘yes’ meant rushing into a marriage he didn’t even get to “consummate” until after Jesus was born. And choosing to say ‘yes’ meant that this poor labourer took on all of the financial burdens of raising this child as his own – including the cost for these sacrifices.
We don’t go in so much for the sacrifices and burnt offerings thing any more, but we still have rituals and ceremonies. Back in July we sent off the paperwork to legally change our eldest child’s name. The documents have our signatures on them, as our child’s parents. We claim this child as our own – from birth – and as our own – moving forward.
And like Joseph that day at the Temple so many years ago, I don’t know what this claim will mean down the road, but I do know that the part of this I have a choice over is in whether I will walk this bit of life with love and faithfulness and trust.Journal Questions:
- Has life thrown you any curve-balls lately? Maybe a cancer diagnosis, a job offer somewhere new, a new stage of parenting, or …?
- What does it mean to choose love in your circumstance?
- What does it mean to choose to be faithful in your own circumstance?
- What does it mean to trust God in your own circumstance?