Key verse: Leviticus 12:8
Big Idea: Birth is a holy time of celebration.
What does a baby mean to you? For some people, it is a memory of grief. For others, a cause for fear. But to God, the birth of a child is a time of celebration - another image bearer has come into the world - tinged with sadness - he or she will die because of the curse of sin. Children are not an inconvenience to be avoided (still less a parasite to be killed). They are a blessing and a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). So it should not be surprising to us that God's Word included specific regulations for how the birth of a child should be carried out. This short chapter probably seems strange to us. There is nothing about skin-to-skin contact, methods of swaddling, the sins/virtues of pacifiers, or any of the other things that are apparently indispensable to modern childbirth! Instead, there are sacrifices and purifying periods.
Why? Because the birth of a child is not an isolated event. Since Genesis 3, every birth has been filled with promise: that one day, the Child would be born who would set us all free. Every birth was a time of worship and of hope, even in the midst of childbirth made painful by the curse. The woman was ceremonially unclean for two weeks (shortened to one week for a baby boy, apparently to allow her to participate in his circumcision) and kept from visiting the Temple for a longer period, until she could come and bring the proper sacrifices. Was this waiting period a picture of the long wait from Eve to Mary? Or something else? We can't really be sure. But what we can be sure of is that God is never absent in the birth of a child, crafted in His image for His glory. No matter the circumstances, a birth is a time for worship and celebration.
Discussion idea: Read Luke 2:22-24. In light of Leviticus 12, what does that passage teach us about Mary and Joseph?
Prayer focus: Thank God for the gift of children, pray for those that are unwanted, and ask God for opportunities to serve "the least of these."
Key Verse: Luke 1:35
Big Idea: The Son of Man is the Son of God.
In Alice in Wonderland, when the White Rabbit asks the King where to begin reading, the King told him to "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop." This is good advice for reading a book or telling a story, but in the case of the story of Jesus, it is not possible. Jesus has no beginning and no end, all of history is His Story, and for all eternity we will continue to know Him more and more. Yet, when Dr. Luke, the companion of Paul, picked up his pen to put the ministry of Jesus into an orderly account so that Theophilus and other Gentile (non-Jewish) people might read and believe, He had to begin somewhere. He chose to begin with the forerunner of Jesus' earthly ministry, John the Baptist, then to the pregnancy of the virgin Mary.
The angel, Gabriel, came to Mary and announced to her that she would have a Son. Mary asked how this could be: she and her fiance Joseph had not yet been married, and she knew that a child required both a father and a mother. The angel explained that this would not be any ordinary child. He is not the son of any human Father, but the Son of God Himself, coming down to become the Son of Mary. Luke is giving us a hint that he will develop more fully later in the book: this is not the beginning of the life of Jesus, but the beginning of His human form.
The job of rescuing us from our sins was too great for any ordinary human to handle, or even for an angel. Instead, it required God Himself to come down. He did not come down in some kind of halfway trick, but the Son of God became fully the Son of Man, born under the rule of the Romans, under the Jewish law, and into poverty. He humbled Himself so that He could lift us up.
Discussion Idea: Based on what you know about Heaven, what do you think Jesus gave up when He became a human being? Remember that He remained 100% God, but did not take advantage of the privileges that provided.
Prayer Focus: Thank God for coming down to us, when we could never get to Him. Pray for the humility to serve others, like He humbly served us.