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Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him. – Luke 2:36-40
I was in college – second go-round. I had nearly made the less-than-auspicious dean’s list a year earlier and had taken some time away. But now I was back and on a much better track. Rather than D’s and F’s I was earning A’s and B’s. Only part of the reason for that was the fact that the class load I carried was not exactly the most challenging. But still… A’s and B’s are better than D’s and F’s any day. My philosophy professor (Yes, it was an easy A, don’t laugh!) got to know me well. I told him of my life’s challenges at the time.
I had come to class one day sharing from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount only to be strongly challenged and roundly ridiculed. I had met the love of my life and she was 5000+ miles away, studying for a semester in Germany. I was helping at my parents’ motel and enduring significant isolation and loneliness. And I was trying to figure out how my faith would really integrate with my life. I was in a crucible of sorts.
My professor knew some of these things, and pondered out loud, “I wonder what you are being prepared for.” I’m not sure he had God in the picture of my refining. I’m not sure he even factored God into any equation. But he did recognize that things were happening which were and would shape me for years to come. That’s what God does. He shapes people through our experiences, relationships, his word, and his providential daily guidance.
I’m thinking about that in regard to Jesus, even at this very early age. He’s barely 8 days old and already things are happening to him and around him that will be played out in his life and ministry. He was now a Son of the Covenant through circumcision. He was dedicated to the Lord by way of his parents’ obedience to the Law of Moses. He was identified as God’s salvation by Simeon. He was the source of Anna’s praise at this encounter.
But we don’t have to wonder what God had in mind for him. We know what he was being prepared for. He was being prepared for his life and ministry as God incarnate, the fulfillment of all of the prophecies and promises of God, the Second Adam, the embodiment of all that man was created to be. And it was beginning to unfold in the sight of the world in these days.
But it would not come immediately. Jesus’ ministry would not unfold publicly for 30 years. He would grow up in his hometown of Nazareth, under the care and guidance of his parents, and as his age, wisdom, physical strength, and social stature progressed. Jesus was not delivered as a done deal, a complete package.
Jesus will grow up healthy and strong. Although he was already filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was already on him, there would be more to learn, more to be done. More opportunities to display his love for God and man. And while his earthly destiny would lead him to a horrific death on a cruel Roman cross, his ultimate destiny is that at his name every knee would bow in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I believe Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord. He has redeemed me, purchased and won me from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He did this not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, his innocent suffering and death. He did this so that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. And just as he was raised from the dead, he lives and reigns with the Father for all eternity. (Based on Luther’s Small Catechism, explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed)
All this begins now to unfold at the temple when Jesus is just 8 days old. What is God preparing you for today – no matter how old you are?