First Sunday in Christmas
 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him 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." Luke 2:22-24 (ESV)
It is amazing, the Bible. One can spend a lifetime reading and rereading it and there will always be something new to catch. Oh you can get the basics and the gist of the story with a cursory reading, or a Catechism class. But there are nuances in the language that hide mysteries, and foreshadow events to come that are just fascinating. And perhaps a superficial reading of John or Luke will tell you all that you need to know to be a Christian, true enough. Yet an understanding of the Old Testament can greatly increase your understanding of what is happening in the New Testament. And you find Gospel gems in the strangest of places, such as a law written for the redemption of first-born males in the 13th chapter of Exodus.
 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.'  It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt." Exodus 13:15-16 (ESV)
One perhaps reads Exodus, as merely an historical event dealing with the Israelites and not having much of anything to do with us today. But here we find that the whole thing was a picture of the redemption of us all, but all the first born of my sons I redeem, it shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt. I don’t debate the historicity of these events, not at all. I leave that sort of thing to idiots who want to ignore archeology etc. (Seriously, reading the garbage that critics write exposes them as that. Calling them critics hardly does them justice because they show themselves to have no critical reasoning skills. I once read an article that claimed Abraham could not ever have lived because there is no archeological evidence for his existence. I for one consider Genesis to be archeological evidence as good as any, but what to they expect to find some four thousand years after the life of a desert nomad to substantiate his existence” Graffiti on a cave wall? What reason do you have to discredit the text itself? That is the question.) But this is far more than mere history. The historical events of Exodus were choreographed by God, planned by God not only to set the stage for the salvation of the world, but also to reflect and mirror the salvation of the world in the life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. That is what I mean when I say the Bible is amazing. I have heard people brag that they have read the Bible twice or three times. George Bush senior is impressed that George W read it twice. I don’t see a whole lot amazing about that, though I do see a lot of good in it. The fact is the Bible simply demands that you read it two or three times if you have read it once, and you probably won’t put it down afterwards either, but will be reading here and there. And every time you read it you will come away having learned something new, carrying off a new gem.
What gets me about this is that this purification rite was planned to redeem the Savior, to bless the Savior. Only the first born, and of the first born only the males, and so Jesus goes to the temple to be redeemed according to the law, a poor family Joseph and Mary choose between pigeons or doves, because God redeems the first born of His sons, and here is His Son, whom he sent forth, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as Sons. (Gal. 4:4-7)
But the fulfilling of the law, and the sacrifice of pigeons in the end would not be enough to redeem us who were under the law.
Notice how all this puts the law in bad light. We have to be redeemed from the law, as if the law were not good and holy, but somehow bad, and perhaps even evil? Well the problem with the law is that it is good, perfect, and holy, and so it can do nothing but condemn us who are under the law, that is not above the law, but under the law because we are sinners, that is it is bad for us because we are not good, perfect and holy, not in ourselves anyway. So though the law is good and holy, it is bad and evil to us, because it demands our life from us, it gives us a death sentence. A death sentence, and we see the carrying out of that death sentence being foretold in this text.
When great Simeon finishes singing the Nunc Dimittis the first Christian ever to do so, asking to depart in peace, when his eyes have beheld the same salvation we behold at the Lord’s table, the body and blood of God to be sacrificed, but we see it already sacrificed. Then Simeon foretells this sacrifice, “Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
A sword will pierce your soul also, he tells Mary. Also. I suppose it was a spear that pierced the side of Jesus and not a sword. But then it was a sword that pierced Mary’s soul, the two edged sword of the word of God, that finally found fulfillment in the death of Christ as the spear pierced his side and blood and water poured forth, the redemption of us under the law, in the death of one who lived it perfectly for us. No mere turtledoves to redeem us children of God, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And in his death, his sacrifice, we have salvation.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.