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The First Sunday after Christmas (12/26/2021)

Exodus 13:1-3a, 11-15; Ps. 111; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:22-40

Holy, [W]hen the time came for her (fem. sg.) purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him (masc. sg.) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (vv. 22-24).

Depending on pronounal translation, which I correct from that in your bulletin from the ESV, one might mistakenly conflate Mary’s bird sacrifices as including Jesus on the occasion of his consecration to God; not so!

Mary’s birds, are a “burnt offering” and a “sin offering” for her ritual purity and return to congregational life (Lev. 12:1-4, 6-8). Her sacrifices had no direct application to Torah’s requirement that a woman’s firstborn male be dedicated to God and then redeemed.

Forty days after Jesus’ birth Mary made her purification offering of birds; immediately after Jesus was independently dedicated to God; Mary had taken the occasion of Jesus’ consecration to orient her own ritual reincorporation into temple life.

To ancient Israel, God commanded, “Consecrate to me … [a]ll … firstborn … males … be the LORD’s … Every firstborn … among your sons you shall redeem [with a lamb] … “all the firstborn of my sons I redeem (Ex. 2a, 12, 15b, 16).

(Parenthetically, that Jesus is Mary’s “firstborn son” (2:7) implies nothing whether she had other children; it is a Christological statement of Jesus belonging to God).

When God said, “all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.” Do plural “sons” give us pause? Well, Adam is created son (3:38); Israel is “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22, 23); and Jesus “only begotten Son” (Ps. 2:7; Jn. 1:14); we presume all are in play of God’s redeeming.

After Presenting a “first born son” to God, a child’s father would purchase his redemption; the price, a sacrificial lamb (Ex. 13:13) or, later five silver sanctuary shekels (Num. 18:16).

Here is the rub, Joseph was not Jesus’ father, and so unqualified to offer the redeem-price, nor was it God’s purpose that his only begotten Son be redeemed from his Office of sacrificial Lamb. Jesus is the redemption-price for all sons and daughters; that in Him we might become new Israel. Forty days after birth Jesus was consecrated God’s new Adam and Israel in place of ancient Israel’s failure to serve in holiness.

Mary’s return to ritual temple purity permitted the woman’s Presentation of Jesus to his heavenly Father, saying, “Behold, [Your] Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world”, forever associating her Presentation with the witness of JB (cf. Jn. 1:29, 36).

Mary in presenting her “firstborn” to God, exhibited Abraham’s righteous faith, who offered Isaac, his only son, to God for sacrifice. The difference: God accepted Mary’s only Son for our all-sufficient sacrifice, fulfilling God’s promise “to provide” in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:10-14).

Jesus’ sacrifice for sin in our place betokens Christian Baptism. Incorporated into Christ we become “firstborns” of the woman, the church; receiving Mary’s “firstborn” for redemption from sin and death. The poured-out water, blood and handing-over the HS on the cross at his death “finished” (Jn. 19:30) Jesus’ work for our redemption and the church’s purification.

Jesus is gift of God. St. Paul calls the Baptized, “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12); by the appellation we put-off sin and put-on Christ, “redeemed firstborns”. In the resurrection we are recipients of God’s promise, “all the firstborn of my sons (Jesus as new Adam, and we new Israel in Zion) I redeem”.

On Christmas-midnight we reflected, the Christ child set down His ensign for a new allegiance to God. One either continues in the world governed by an axis of rebellious flesh, world rulers, in conspiracy with demonic powers; or in Baptism, daily renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions, and returning to the true source of holiness, Jesus’ crucified body and blood Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.

You have heard the bromide, “once saved always saved” its falsity is patent, scripturally unfound; experience teaches otherwise. People fall from faith and grace all the time, prime examples: from repentant Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:20) to Judas betraying the Lord with a kiss, yet refusing to repent (Acts 1:25).

What however is scripturally true: “once baptized always baptized”, that is the renewing source of our faith and holiness; as we confess, “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins” (Nicene Creed, 3rd Article).

In Baptism we put aside all notions of our own holiness that leads to self-improvement mentalities far from true holiness coming from outside ourselves. When we daily sin, Scripture restores us to God’s promises of Christ’s blood for forgiveness, sanctification, and faithfulness to his Word.

St. Paul elaborates our new allegiance focusing on Baptism’s relational fruits: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, putting-up with one another and forgiving each other in love and peace with thankful (Eucharistic) hearts toward God (Col. 3:12-14).

We have no ability to advance these virtues; they are ours only as we access Christ in our midst. We repent of failure and seek strength in forgiveness that we may like Him sacrificially relate to God and others.

Of ourselves we are not getting “better and better”, but repentantly we daily come to Baptism’s death and resurrection for increase in being made to the image of God and the likeness of Christ. Amen.


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