One of my favourite parts of the Christmas story is when the infant Lord Jesus visited the temple with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2 vs 22-38. This is not a very well-known part of Christmas, it seems to have been forgotten amongst the shepherds and wise men. Its message however is very important.
According to the Old Testament law every baby was to be presented at the temple in Jerusalem when they were fifty days old and a sacrifice was to be made for them there. Mary and Joseph as God fearing Jews obeyed and brought Jesus to the temple along with two turtle doves for a sacrifice. They couldn't afford to bring a lamb which tells us that Mary and Joseph were a poor family. To understand how important this story is we have to appreciate why the temple was built. The temple was built in place of the Tabernacle or tent that Moses had erected in the desert one and a half thousand years before Jesus was born. Since it's rebuild the temple had stood in Jerusalem for five hundred years before Mary and Joseph came that particular day. God tells us in Exodus 25 vs 8 why the Tabernacle and temple were built, "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." God came down from heaven and lived among his people. God has always desired a relationship with human beings, men and women, boys and girls. He wants us to know him. The temple was a picture of that. God lived among his people.
Now bear in mind that at the time of the first Christmas, when Joseph and Mary went to the temple, God had been silent for over four hundred years. The temple was now empty God was not there. History records that in 69bc General Pompey invaded Israel and brought the Romans. He looked behind the curtain in the Temple because he was curious what was there. He was disappointed: there was only an empty room. The Jewish people in the land longed for God’s presence again. They longed for a day when God would once again dwell among them.
Then when all hope was nearly lost, Jesus came to the temple. The bible tells us that Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the one who made the stars and created the world. God had come again to the temple. In fact the building itself is just a picture of Jesus. John 1 vs 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." The word dwelt or tabernacled literally means 'He pitched His tent among us'. The tabernacle and temple itself are pictures which tell us that God would become a human being in order that He might save us and have the relationship with us as human beings. God became a human being! That is why the Christmas story and the gospel is the greatest story ever told. God was born as a man, lived and died, then rose again so that He could rescue us and save us. If we want to know God today we must trust in The Lord Jesus.
Sadly only all of the Pharisees, priests, Sadducees, scribes and teachers of the law missed it. When God came to the temple that day they weren't interested. They missed what they had been waiting for four hundred years. All they saw was another poor family. Only an old man Simeon and an old lady Anna realised what was happening and worshipped God. I ask you now this Christmas what do you think about Jesus Christ? This Christmas will you miss out on Jesus again? Will you just miss why it is so important? Or like Simeon and Anna will you come to know him? Will you put your faith in The Lord Jesus and come to know the God who created you and loves you?