Luke 2:22,24 – And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord … and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (KJV)
When I was a child, one of my favourite Christmas carols was the popular tune, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Until recently, I did not give much thought to the gifts portrayed in this peculiar song. Some believe it was written in code to provide a hidden message for Christians during a time of persecution; for instance, they say that the partridge refers to Christ and that the two turtledoves represent the Old and New Testaments. This idea brought to mind the turtledoves mentioned in Luke's gospel when the infant Jesus made His first appearance in the temple.
I can picture the worshipful scene at the altar as Mary sacrificed these two innocent doves in obedience to the law. Leviticus 12:2-8 required all Jewish women to make an offering to the Lord forty days after giving birth; turtle-doves were acceptable for those who could not afford a lamb or goat. These beautiful, yet inexpensive birds provide an excellent illustration of our Saviour's humble estate — the Son of God, Who left the riches of heaven's throne to dwell among sinners. Moreover, the gentle nature and mournful voice of the dove is aptly associated with the Messiah's birth.
Nevertheless, despite its meaningful purpose, the Old Testament's sacrificial system failed to remove sin completely. For that reason, it was necessary for Christ to be born. Then by His precious sacrifice, the Son of God has the power not only to cleanse sin, but also to change the condition of the human heart forever; thus, the purpose of His coming.
Hebrews 10:5,7 – Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; Then I said, 'Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.'" (NIV)
So, as we celebrate our Lord's birthday with family and friends, let us remember the magnitude of His love for us. Let us also remember that long before Calvary, the Babe born in a Bethlehem stable gave up everything so that we might have the most precious gift of all: life everlasting.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, as we share this special time of giving and receiving gifts, may we sense anew the great sacrifice and love that You gave to the world at Christmas. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "A Little Child The Saviour Came" (Lyrics)