Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Christmas Special
Volume 7 No. 452 December 22, 2017
III. Lectionary Reflections: Luke's Nativity

Luke's Nativity: Messiah Came into History

by Bill Randles

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
(Luke 2:1-6)

The "seed of the woman", the Messiah Saviour promised from the very beginning in Genesis chapter three, came into the world at a time appointed by God himself, the 'fulness of time'.

By this time, the series of Jewish exiles and captivities had seeded the known world with Synagogues in nearly every town of any size. The conquests and cultural colonization of Alexander the Great had made Hellenism the common culture, and Greek the 'lingua franca' of the known world. Everyone spoke Greek and the Hebrew Bible had been translated into Greek (the Septuagint).

The Roman empire had cleared the Mediterranean of the infestation of pirates, and had threaded the entire known world with excellent paved roads, making travel and trade safe and easier than ever before in history. Roman law imposed a kind of order upon the world, the pax Romana.

The Roman world also imposed a religious pluralism, one could worship in any fashion as long as due allegiance was paid to the Emperor, in the form of a pinch of incense to the 'genius of the Emperor' at spatial government shrines.

A special status was afforded the Jews, who thought it abominable to pray to the Emperor, instead they pledged to pray for the Emperor.

Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavian, took upon himself the name of his benefactor and uncle, thus He was called Caesar. It was said of him that he initiated the golden age of peace and prosperity. It seemed inevitable that all of the world was Rome.

In 27 BC Octavian Caesar accepted the name Augustus, "One worthy of worship or veneration". Thus Caesar was called, the "Lord", "Son of God", the "Divine Emperor", and "the Savior of the world". His emissaries were called evangelists, and his messages were called gospels. This was the beginning of the cult of Caesar worship.

His birthday announcement called for the date to become the new beginning of the year, and virtually deified Him;

The most divine Caesar…we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things…; for when everything was falling [into disorder] and tending toward dissolution, he restored it once more and gave to the whole world a new aura; Caesar…the common good Fortune of all…the beginning of life and vitality….All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year….Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whom it [Providence] filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become [god] manifest (phaneis), Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times …in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth]. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, 23.

The Holy Land had burned with the fires of Messianic expectation in the days of the Maccabean revolt, in which the Anti-God measures of the pagan Greek oppressor Antiochus Epiphanes were resisted until Judea gained a brief independence in 142 BC..

In 63 bc, Rome intervened in a civil war in Judea, and took control over the Holy land, installing an Edomite convert to Judaism , King Herod.

Herod, with all of his flaws, was one of the greatest builders of the Ancient world. One of his projects was the restoration and refurbishment of the temple of God in Jerusalem. His forts , palaces, aqueducts and the temple project caused him to load the people of Judea down with excessive taxes, which came on top of the heavy Roman taxes, and the temple tithes.

Herod was somewhat scrupulous about keeping kosher, but was paranoid about possible usurpers to the Kingdom. HE once killed a Son he suspected of having ambitions to his throne, causing Caesar to quip, "It is safer to be Herod's pig, than his son".

Late in the pregnancy of Mary, Caesar instituted a census, an enrollment to number the people of the Empire for the purposes of taxation. Herod instituted his own enrollment at the same time, this causing Mary and Joseph to have to travel to Bethlehem, the city of Mary and Joseph's tribal clan, to be counted.

Caesar thought He was issuing his decree, in order to build his army, cities and to better order his Kingdom. Millions of people were inconvenienced and relocated for the census. But all of this took place to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the Messiah,

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
(Micah 5:2)

Luke's Nativity: The Sign of the Inn, the Cave, and of The Swaddling Clothes

by Bill Randles

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:4-9)

Joseph, Mary's espoused husband, almost divorced his wife to be, (in Jewish marriage, the betrothal is binding and only broken by divorce).

But God revealed to this righteous man , that he too would have special part in the redemption of the world, for the Babe in Mary's womb did indeed come by the "power of the most high, overshadowing her". Thus Joseph entered into the reproach of Christ, with his wife to be. They would bear the shame, in what looked like a moral failure, to safely bring Messiah into the world.

The time to deliver the child came, while they were traveling to Bethlehem, the home of Joseph's forefathers. But there was no room for the couple in the Inn. The little town of Bethlehem would have been swollen with those seeking to be enrolled in Caesar's census, so the couple had to resort to bearing a child in a stable.

That the Inn couldn't receive Jesus, but a filthy stable did, became a sign of the human reaction to the Saviour.

An Inn, in our modern times, (something like the Holiday Inns) is a public house for rent, and is usually kept clean, ideally spotless, every sheet properly tucked in, towels neatly folded, and everything in order for the convenience of the guests. The idea is to rent every room possible.

Some people's lives are similar. Everything seems clean and in order. Their lives are full, there is no vacancy. When the gospel comes to them they see no need, for seemingly they have t together, thus there is no sense of need for Jesus. You could say there is "no room in the Inn" of their hearts, for business is brisk, and everything is in order.

But others lives are like that filthy stable. Who would lay down on the floor of a stable/cave, and have a baby? A place where animals live and feed, and perhaps a place needing the offal of animals to be pitchforked out of it! But there was room in the stable for the Messiah.

Millions of souls, those filthy, ruined, and living almost bestial lives, stained and spotted by sin, would recognize in Jesus the promise of Redemption, New Birth and the hope of eternal Life. Unlike the "Inns" of humanity, these "filthy stables" open their hearts to the Savior and allow him to come in, and purify their lives through the sacrifice He would make for them, of his own blood.

The Sign Of The Swaddling Clothes…

At the beginning of Luke's gospel, Joseph and Mary are together in an enclosed place, wrapping Jesus tightly in cloth strips, laying him out on a table/manger.

An almost identical scene plays itself almost at the end of Luke's gospel. True its a different Joseph in the second instance, but the scene repeats, Joseph and Mary are in a tomb, Jesus is laid out on a table, and this time Joseph wraps Jesus' body in strips of cloth for burial. And Mary is there.

And he (Joseph) took it (The Body of Jesus) down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
(Luke 23:53-56)

Everything in scripture is meaningful, all is the Word of God. What is it that God is saying in this double binding of Jesus?

I believe it is a statement that Jesus, who is the eternal God, allowed himself for thirty-three years to be bound by men, that He whose power is limitless, could save us from our sin. This is real Power, power restrained voluntarily, even hidden, that we might be saved.

God entered into limitation, "he emptied himself" as Paul said in Phillipians 2. The ancient psalmist cried out "Bind the sacrifice with cords to the altar"! Sampson once put forth his hands to his brethren, the men of Judah, and allowed them to bind him, and lead him as a captive, to the Philistines where he won one of his greatest victories.

Power restrained, hidden glory, power revealed in apparent weakness, this is the gospel A sign was given to the Shepherds by the Heavenly hosts, but not one that anyone would associate with raw power or heavenly mystery,

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(Luke 2;10-14)

Our God bound himself, he allowed himself to be bound by men, that men might be free of sin! We can only join those who have given us our beloved Christmas Carols, in singing-

"Highest, most holy,
Light of light eternal,
Born of a virgin,
A mortal he comes;
Son of the Father
Now in flesh appearing!
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas everybody!

Luke's Nativity: The First Coming Is like The Second

by Bill Randles

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
(Luke 2:8-20)

The story of the birth of Jesus, is perhaps the most familiar and loved portions of the Bible. But the problem with familiar passages of scripture is that people think they know what needs to be known about them and often aren't open to a fresh look at the same text from another angle.

It is called the Christmas story, but I believe we should look at it as an account of some of the same conditions that will be prevalent at the time of the second coming of our Lord and Saviour to this earth. As it was in the first coming, so shall it be at the second coming.

* Once again the world will be globalized and ruled from the west,

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(Luke 2:1)

We have just this week seen the spectacle of the World Conference on Climate Change, in which 191 world leaders agreed to heavily tax the productive people's of the world , to offset the supposed "man made climate change" due to the Industrial revolution.

Think of it, a world tax has just been agreed to.

Rome ruled the Mediterranean world, in the days of the first coming of the Messiah, and there will be a revived Roman empire, a European, western super state at the time of the second coming.

*And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
(Revelation 13:16-17)

Once again a man claiming to be god will seek to count and number the people of the world at the time of the return of the Saviour.

Caesar Augustus was the first Roman Emperor to be deified while yet alive, his decrees were called ‘gospels', his emissaries were called evangelists, he was described as "Divine Saviour of the world" and was thought to have ushered in a golden age. The world worshipped him.

The World is being prepared for another ultimate Caesar, the anti-Christ, he will be heralded by all, at first, as the leader we have long-awaited, and will seem to have solved many of the world's most intractable problems, such as the economy, terrorism, and the mideast peace problem.

People will have no problem rendering worship to Him. After so many decades of our own impotent, feckless, terror appeasing leadership in the western world, the man the Bible warns of, calling him "the Beast" will seem like a breath of fresh air.

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? (Revelation 13:3-4)

* Once again Jerusalem and Judea will exist under foreign domination. True, Israel is a reborn nation, as of May 1948, and this is a major sign of the second coming. But the U.N. and the European Union, and the USA and Russia have formed a quartet, and they presume to determine the boundaries that Israel should have and what territory she should cede to her enemies.

Just as Jesus came at first unto an occupied Israel, languishing under the domination of gentiles, Jesus shall come again to an Israel in the same situation. An ancient prophesy by Jacob, concerning the future of each of his twelve sons, foretold that the coming of "Shiloh", that is the Messiah, would be at the time that Judah should lose her national sovereignty.

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)

The situation today is similar, for though Israel captured the city of Jerusalem in 1967, she immediately ceded the custodianship of the most sacred piece of real estate , the Temple Mount, to the Muslim Wafq. Israel watches helplessly while Muslims dig out the Holy mountain, destroying priceless relics from the first and second temple, crushing them into gravel! Neither Israel or Judah wield a sceptre to this day .

The logical capital of Israel, would be Jerusalem, right? But virtually all the nations of the world, including the USA refuse to have their embassies there, in order not to offend the Muslims. As at the first coming ,so the second coming of Christ. Jesus himself predicted this, and that it would be an issue until he returned-

…Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
(Luke 21:24)

* Once again, popular religion will not be ready for his return, as they were unprepared for his first coming. Herod had a Jewish Rabbi in his court. When there were rumblings about who the Magi were and what they were seeking, Herod asked the Rabbi where in scripture was Christ to be born.

The Rabbi immediately rattled off the scripture from Micah 5 that I opened this article with. Messiah will be born in Bethlehem Ephratah! But there is no record that he made the slightest effort to go see for himself. He knew the scripture but he wasn't expecting anything real to happen.

* Once again, very few will even be aware of what is happening. What happened at the first coming of Jesus?

>Shepherds were watching their flocks at night – He came at night-He comes again in the night, the moral and spiritual night of apostasy, moral decline, darkness and rebellion. But some Shepherds, (Pastors) who were watchful for their flocks, they were ready when the Angels came, they saw him.

> Zechariah and Elisabeth a pious priest and his wife in a time of corruption, they saw what was coming.

> The Magi- who were a caste of gentile wise men from Persia (Iran) whose school was once headed up by the prophet Daniel, and who searched the prophecies of Daniel, they saw Him and worshipped him. Another earlier gentile prophet that they were no doubt well aware of named Balaam had predicted the star which would lead them to Jesus .

The 9th chapter of Daniel alone is an amazing prophecy which pinpointed the exact timing of the Messiah's coming, death and the destruction of the temple following it. Jesus would tell us in Matthew 24 that once again an understanding of Daniel the Prophet is essential to being ready for his second coming.

The events of the first Christmas are history indeed, but they are prophecy as well, and we are all in the story somewhere. Ready or not, Jesus is coming again! Maranatha! Merry Christmas!

[Editor's Note: President Trump's declaration a few weeks ago, that US Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem and that US considers Jerusalem to be the Capital of Israel may provide you with new insights of bible prophesy.]

Luke's Nativity: On Singing Christmas

by Bill Randles

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(Luke 2:8-14)

I know, I know, I've already heard it all, every year.' Christmas is a pagan holiday, the celebration of the winter solstice, a christianised celebration of the feast of Bauchus. The Yule log is Celtic paganism, the decorated tree is all about Babylonian Tamuz worship', and besides all that Jesus probably even born in December! Right?

But once a year, there is a holiday, that however imperfectly, commemorates the Incarnation of God into this sinful "weary world". It wouldn't matter to us what month or day, because the Bible doesn't give us the birthdate of Jesus. What matters is that "unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given". I love it.

Upon my conversion to Jesus Christ somewhere around 1977-78, I remember being amazed to find around Christmas time, that the familiar words to the carols I had sung for years actually conveyed powerful, relevant, theological meaning.

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Tears streamed down my face as I sang again the songs I had known and loved since childhood, now realizing personally the depth of the message,

"…God and sinners reconciled…veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel…Born to raise the Sons of earth, born to give them second birth…"

Everywhere I go this time of year, I hear this evangel streaming from the radio, covered by popular singers, pouring out of loudspeakers at shopping malls, sung by choirs and carolers in the streets themselves. Personally , I love it.

Who knows how many hard hearts have been touched, melted, perhaps even turned back to God in repentance. by Lyrics such as ;

"Silent Night, Holy Night , Son of God, Loves pure Light, radiant beams from thy Holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace, Christ our Saviour is born… Silen night, Holy Night, Shepherds quake, at the sight, Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly Hosts sing Hallelujah, Christ the Saviour is born…"

And yet as I was for years, so many are oblivious to the meaning of the songs of the "Heavenly Hosts", repeated every Christmas season. But this is as it was at the first Noel. How else could it be that of all the people of Judea, who had long been promised a coming deliverer, that only the lonely and despised Shepherds heard the Angelic songs ?

"Gloria ,Gloria,Gloria, in Exelcis Deo !…Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on earth to Men with whom He is pleased!"

We are told that the Sovereign God himself has chosen to hide the things of God from the wise of this Age, yet reveals them unto babes in his sight ,

At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
(Matthew 11:24-28)

How fitting, that not to the powerful, but to the lowly, and not into a palace or temple, but into a lowly, filthy barn, basically a cave, did the "High and Lofty God", from of Old, choose to condescend unto us, in order to save us.

You would have to be willing to stoop to enter into the place where "unto us The child was born…" even as one would have to stoop 33 years later to enter into the other cave, the empty tomb! Don't you love it? Has the Incarnation of God yet done its softening work in your heart?

But other than scripture who says it better than Philip Brooks, the hymnist who gave us "O Little Town of Bethlehem"?

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in

Merry Christmas everybody!

Luke's Nativity: Jesus' First Bloodshedding

by Bill Randles

And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
(Luke 2: 21-24)

Eight days have passed, since the birth of the Savior, therefore the time had come for Joseph and Mary to present Jesus for circumcision. The Son of God would come under the Law and covenant of God with all of its obligations and privileges. He as a Son of Israel, would bear the mark of the covenant.

Circumcision bears a deeper, spiritual meaning. There is something wrong with everything that pertains to natural birth, since the fall of man. Scriptures such as "In sin did my mother conceive me…", and, "the wicked are estranged from the womb, speaking lies…" teach the doctrine of original sin. Circumcision presupposes participation in Adam's guilt and shame.

This child, of course, was not born in sin, for he was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary. But he came to identify with sinners, and to be "numbered with the transgressors".

Therefore his first blood-shedding points to His last. "HE who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, that we might be the Righteousness of God in Christ"(2 Cor 5:21).

Joseph and Mary were yet bound by the law to submit to two other God ordained rituals involving the birth of the Son of God, the redemption of the first born, and the purification of Mary. These involved a trip to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus, as firstborn male, must be redeemed at the age of 30 days;

Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the Lord, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem. And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.(Numbers 18:16)

Joseph would find a Cohen (Priest) to perform the rite, which went something like this;

Jesus would be handed over to the Cohen, then Joseph would give the five shekels Redemption price to the Cohen who would then hand Jesus back to Joseph.

Joseph would say something like,

"Blessed art thou O Lord Our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by thy commandments, and given us command concerning the redemption of the son."

"Blessed art Thou O lord our God, King of the universe, who hast Kept us in Life, and hast preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season"

The Cohen would then take the redemption money, and holding it over the head of the child, says-

"This instead of that, this in commutation for that, this in remission for that. May this child enter into life, into the law, and the fear of Heaven. May it be God's will that even as he has been admitted to redemption, so may he enter into the law, the nuptial canopy, and into good deeds. Amen."

The Cohen then places his hand over the child's head and pronounces the following benediction;

God make thee as Ephraim and Mannaseh. The Lord Bless thee and Keep thee, the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord turn his face unto thee and give thee peace.

The LORD is thy guardian; the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. For Length of days and years of life and peace shall they add to thee. The LORD shall guard thee from all evil; He shall guard thy soul. Amen.

Now Mary and Joseph, had given their son up to the LORD and had received him back, by way of Redemption. One ritual remained.

Mary must make her way to the court of women, which which was a raised gallery section overlooking the main court of the temple reserved for Jewish men. She would have bought her two turtle doves at trumpet number three, for the daily offering and service was beginning.

Eidersheim notes that but those women who had come for purification after birth were moved to the place nearest the very gate which opened into the Holy Place, where the offering and incense was arising,

The chief of the ministrant lay-representatives of Israel on duty (the so-called 'station-men') ranged those, who presented themselves before the Lord as offerers of special sacrifices, within the wickets on either side the great Nicanor Gate, at the top of the fifteen steps which led up from the Court of the Women to that of Israel.

It was, as if they were to be brought nearest to the Sanctuary; as if theirs were to be specially the 'prayers' that rose in the cloud of incense from the Golden Altar; as if for them specially the sacrifices were laid on the Altar of Burnt-offering; as if theirs was a larger share of the benediction which, spoken by the lips of the priests, seemed like Jehovah's answer to the prayers of the people; theirs especially the expression of joy symbolised in the drink-offering, and the hymn of praise whose Tris-Hagion filled the Temple.

From where they stood they could see it all, share in it, rejoice in it. And now the general service was over, and only those remained who brought special sacrifices, or who lingered near them that had such, or whose loved abode was ever in the Temple. The purification-service, with such unspoken prayer and praise as would be the outcome of a grateful heart, was soon ended, and they who had shared in it were Levitically clean. Now all stain was removed, and, as the Law put it, they might again partake of sacred offerings. (Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah)

But on that day, The LORD had one more confirmation for Joseph and Mary before they could return home after the service and participation in the sacrifice, as the other worshippers were doing. A prophetic Word would be uttered over the child by one of God's choice but obscure servants.

[Editor's Note: The last of these reflections on Luke's Nativity will be published in the Malankara World Journal special on Mayatho on Feb 2]


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