Luke 2:22-38 (ESV)
22 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 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32       a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

After Jesus was circumcised, Joseph and Mary traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice for purification. The Law required a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. If the woman gave birth to a son, this purification was to occur 40 days after delivery. The Law made provision for those who couldn’t afford a lamb. A pair of pigeons or turtledoves satisfied the burnt and sin offering requirement for the poor, so Mary and Joseph offered the pair of birds without the lamb. Although Joseph was a carpenter and earned his living working with his hands, the young family did not have much money. When they arrived in the temple, they met an old man named Simeon, who was waiting for the coming of the One promised to redeem Israel. The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until after he actually saw the Messiah. When Simeon saw Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, he recognized Jesus as the Christ. He took the baby into his arms, praised God, and prophesied over him. Simeon declared by the Spirit that Jesus was a light not only to Israel, but to the Gentiles too. This amazed his parents. God provided Jesus for the salvation of the Jews and amazed the Gentiles.

Through the prophecy of Simeon, the Holy Spirit told Mary that Jesus would be opposed, and a sword would pierce her own soul. Not all would embrace the truth Jesus was born to bring. The word Simeon used for sword described a large and broad sword used by Gentiles, representative of great pain or anguish. Jesus’ ministry included choices that were hard for Mary to bear. It can be difficult for women to let go of their children, or after training them up in the way of the Lord, hand them to the world to be salt and light. We often hold onto things we love rather than allowing God to take them from us for his glory. If you are struggling to give over to God any person or thing in your life right now, let go today. The pain we endure now in doing things God’s way will one day yield much more fruit than if we had insisted on getting our own way. His way is always best in the end.