Luke 2:22-24 AMP
“And when the time for their purification came [that is, the mother’s purification and the baby’s dedication] according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord [set apart as the Firstborn] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy [set apart and dedicated] to the Lord)” and [they came also] to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord [to be appropriate for a family of modest means], “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
This event would have taken place 40 days after Jesus’ birth, and much like we see the practice of baby dedications in churches today, Jesus was being consecrated, or set apart, to God.
Now, let me take a quick moment and clear something up that might be a little confusing in today’s countdown card. The cards we’ve been using to lead our family through these daily readings (which I found online and include a picture of in each blog post) also includes a passage of Scripture taken from Luke 3 that references Jesus’ baptism, starting with the phrase “when all the people were being baptized”. These were, however, two different events. His baptism took place several years later, when He, as an adult, was baptized by John the Baptist. Instead of editing this, I chose to let it be because it allowed me an opportunity to point something out.
First, to dedicate a child is an act where a family celebrates the birth of a child in the Presence of God and their church family. It’s also a way of declaring publicly – prophetically, really – that the child will be set apart to the Lord’s purposes and that he/she will become what they are destined to become. By presenting their child this way, they are committing themselves first as parents, to co-operate with God in raising the child “according to the way he/she should go”. They’re asking God for His grace and wisdom in carrying out their responsibilities as parents, and committing to train up their child according to godly principles, in an environment reflective of God’s ways. It can also be a time to prophetically speak over the child and voice what God has already given revelation of. We will see later how this took place with Jesus as He was prophesied over by Simeon and Anna.
But here’s the part I want to point out. Dedication does not equate to salvation. Each child will one day have to make his or her own personal decision about following Christ and acknowledging Him as Lord over their lives. Parents cannot secure salvation for their children either through a dedication ceremony or sprinkling them with water. We can guide, teach, pray for, and lead our children. But the decision to follow Christ is one we will all eventually have to make on our own. And biblically, baptism is reserved as a public declaration of an individual’s personal decision to follow God. There’s no “minimum age requirement” to be baptized, but we must be at the age where we can have the maturity and ability to understand what it means.
So as I zoom out and consider what this could mean for us at Christmastime, here’s what I felt led to leave us with today: The message of Christmas? It’s personal. Jesus came so that this relationship with God could be personal. Maybe we were raised in a great faith-centered home, maybe we weren’t. Maybe mom and dad dedicated us, maybe they didn’t. Maybe we were sprinkled as a child, maybe not. Maybe we went to church every single Sunday growing up, maybe we’ve never stepped foot in a church. It’s not about any of that. Walking in a personal relationship with God is not about following rituals or participating in ceremonies. It’s about making a personal decision that Jesus will be Lord of our life and then walking out that personal relationship with Him daily. And it’s for whosoever will. Not because of what someone else in our family did, but for us. Personally.
At Christmastime especially, it can be very easy to get pulled into the greater momentum of everything going on around us. Whether you’ve never made the decision to follow Christ personally, or even if you’ve been walking with God for a while, I just want to say this, don’t let the personal nature of the season slip by you. What is God whispering to your heart? Where are you feeling Him drawing you? On what part of your life does He want to place His finger and reveal Himself to you? Don’t let all the activities of the holiday season replace the very personal nature – the personal encounter – God wants to have with you. Don’t let there be a partition, a wall of separation that keeps you on the outside looking in. Experience it this Christmas. Experience Him.