ALTHOUGH JESUS was born in a stable and slept in a manger, he did not stay in that place long.
After a few days Joseph was able to find a more comfortable home, where the young mother and her baby were taken. The Jews were very kind to strangers of their own people, and welcomed them to their houses when passing through their towns.
Joseph and his family were in Bethlehem for some weeks, perhaps for some months. It may have been their purpose to make Bethlehem their home, and to bring up this child, the Son of David, in David’s own city, where he could have a better training for his coming life, whatever that life might be, than in the country village of Nazareth.
On the day when Jesus was forty days old, he was brought with his mother to Jerusalem, which was only six miles from Bethlehem. There he was taken to the Temple for a service which showed that he was given to God and to be brought up as God’s child. It was the rule of the Jews that after the first child had come to a family, an offering should be made on the altar in the Temple for him and prayers should be said. A family that was rich would offer for their first child a sheep, which was killed and burned on the altar as a gift to God in place of the child. If the family was poor, or of the working class of people, the parents offered a pair of doves or pigeons. Joseph and Mary brought a pair of doves, and stood by while these were burned on the altar, Mary holding her baby in her arms.
At that moment there was in the Temple an old man named Simeon. He was a good man and very earnest in his prayers to God that he might live to see the Messiah-King of Israel, the Christ of God, who had been promised through the prophets of old. And God had said to Simeon that he should not die until he had seen Christ. On that morning a voice had seemed to say to him, “Go to the Temple.” He obeyed it, not knowing why he had been sent to that place on that day.
As Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into the Temple, the voice of the Lord spoke again to Simeon, saying:
“This child is David’s Son, the King of Israel.”
The old man came forward, held out his arms, and took the child into them, folded him to his bosom, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, said in Hebrew verse:
“Now, Lord, thou mayest let thy servant go According to thy word, in peace. For these eyes of mine have seen thy Saviour Whom thou hast sent to all the people. A light to shine upon the nations, And the glory of thine own people Israel.”
Joseph and Mary were filled with wonder at the act and words of the old man, whom they had never seen before and did not know. But as he placed the child in their arms again, he prayed for God’s blessing upon both Joseph and Mary.
“Listen,” he said, “this child will become a cause for many to fall and to rise again in Israel. He shall be God’s sign of mercy, but many shall speak against him. Also, sorrow like a sword shall pierce through your soul, O mother; and the thoughts out of many hearts shall be made known.”
Those words seemed very strange at the time; but long afterward, when Jesus had grown to be a man, Mary found how true they were, as she saw enemies gathered against her son, and at last looked at him dying upon the cross. Then, indeed, a sword went through Mary’s soul.
Just at that moment a woman came up to the little group. She was very old, more than ninety years of age; and being a widow and a devout worshipper of God she stayed nearly all her days in the Temple praying. God had spoken to her also with the promise of a coming Christ, the Saviour and King. She too saw in this little baby the promised Messiah, and in a loud voice gave thanks and praise to God. All who heard her wondered at her words, and wondered all the more as they looked on this plainly-clad father and mother with their baby, all evidently from the country, and the speech of Joseph and Mary showing they had come from Galilee in the far north.
Thus even while Jesus was a very young baby, only forty days old, here in Jerusalem a few people had looked upon him and spoken of him as the coming King of Israel.
Joseph and Mary carried the child back to their new home in Bethlehem; and Mary had more thoughts to hide within her silent heart long after that day in the Temple.