This is yet another one of those Bible scenes that would be easy to skip over, but, if we slow down, it can be quite beautiful. It is helpful for me to think about these scenes playing out like a movie. Paint that picture in your mind, and I think it becomes a precious and very human moment. Jesus has been born, the shepherds have visited and left, and now Mary and Joseph are that couple we’ve seen many times over: They’re a young family doting upon their son, full of wonder about who he is, what he will be like, and what their new family will be like. You see the pictures all over social media today of young couples and their first born child after the dust has settled a bit. You see how both exhausted and exhilarated they are at the same time. That’s Mary and Joseph.
So they now take the journey to Jerusalem to present Jesus to the Lord (“just as it is written in the law”). This is not a huge journey, only about seven miles. To me there is something beautifully common about this scene. It’s like their first trip to church with the new baby, and in this case, it’s like baptism day. I love the way families look when they walk into worship on the morning their baby will be baptized. They come in with a great sense of purpose, meaning, pride, and connection. This is how I picture Mary and Joseph on this day.
Except for one thing. In those days you had to bring an offering, which was usually a lamb, but not everybody could afford to do that. If you couldn’t afford a lamb, you brought something like “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.” Your economic status was on full display. Today this could breed much shame in a young couple, and thankfully our offerings are not so public, but it’s possible that there was no shame here. It’s possible that it was one of those “that’s just the way it is” kind of things.
Either way, here come Mary and Joseph, baby in hand, ready to dedicate him to the Lord. They don’t have much, but the have their family. Yes, their child happens to be The Messiah, and yes, it all came with angel visits, immaculate conceptions, and other strange, supernatural moments. But today, Mary and Joseph get to be a normal, everyday, common family. Two parents and a new baby boy, headed to church to dedicate their child to God. There is a moment of rest from the chaos, from the extraordinary. There is a moment, a precious, calming but beautiful moment of the ordinary. Some times you need the ordinary. Thanks be to God for the ordinary.