(If this day falls on the first Sunday after Christmas, please read the devotion for January 1 in the morning, and the devotion for “the First Sunday after Christmas” in the evening.)
This is another day in the Church Calendar that has a special place. In the Catholic Church, it is assigned to “Mary, Mother of God,” an unfortunate term as it would be better to refer to her as “God-bearer,” as the ancient Church did, speaking not of her but of the child she carried. We shall opt for the Anglican tradition of “Holy Name” as January 1 marks the eighth day in which sons were circumcised and given their names, according to the law (Genesis 17:12-14; 21:4; Leviticus 12:3). “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” Then on the fortieth day, the baby was presented to the Lord.
There are two points I wish to make over this long passage. First, Galatians 4:4-5 tells us: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” A major statement is made here. We have already covered our Lord’s humanity in previous days so we need not tarry over his being born of woman, except to marvel over the miracle and proclaim Mary “blessed among women.” But that he was born under the law is just as crucial. Indeed, Paul writes that it is because of these two factors, being born of woman and under the law, that we may be adopted into God’s family. He was born under the law that he may redeem us from the law, that we may be servants of Christ. We could never fulfill the law’s commands, whether we are speaking of the moral law or the regulations under the Mosaic. As believers, we now follow the law of liberty (James 1:25) which is the law Christ – not that we are free to sin, but free from sin, not because of the law, but because of the grace we have received from Christ, and his Spirit which takes up residence in our hearts upon our regeneration. This gives even more meaning to the simple verse towards the end of the chapter after his parents found him in the temple, blamed him, and received his innocent answer, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them,” like a good boy should be.
Then there is Simeon and Anna, both waiting for the “consolation” of Israel, or the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon is the only person I know who had a clue about the baby: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed,” and then those awful words to his parents, “(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” It’s just as true today. Nothing reveals a man’s heart like the gospel. Christ is the stone over which men stumble (Luke 20:18), and the salvation of those who believe.