Lk. 2:21 When Jesus is eight days old, he is circumcised (by cutting off the foreskin of the penis) following the Jewish tradition, as a sign of God’s covenant agreement with the Jews (see Genesis 17:12).
Lk. 2:22-24 Thirty-three days later (once Mary is considered to be ‘purified’ or ‘ritually clean’ after giving birth), Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, just 5 miles / 8 km from Bethlehem. Here they consecrate their first-born son to God in accordance with the Jewish custom (see Exodus 13:1-2 & Numbers 18:14-16). As they are not a wealthy family, they offer the purification sacrifice of two doves or two young pigeons in place of a lamb (see Leviticus 12:1-8).
Mary with the infant Jesus
Mosaic at the Church of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Lk. 2:25-35 In the Temple courts, Mary and Joseph meet Simeon – a devout Jew who has been given the special gift by the Holy Spirit of recognising the promised Messiah or Christ before he dies. When Simeon takes Jesus in his arms he immediately knows that he is holding the Messiah who will save the Jewish people from their sinful ways and bring them back to God. He praises God, saying “Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you said” (Luke 2:29). This prayer of praise is now known as the ‘Nunc Dimittis’, the first two words of this prayer in Latin. (See the feature on Who was the Messiah? in Section 2.)
Lk. 2:36-38 Before leaving the Temple and returning to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph meet an old lady called Anna – a prophetess – who tells them that Jesus will grow up to be the saviour of the Jewish people.