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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Wednesday, December 29

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.
—Luke 2:22

As a means of redeeming and dedicating their child to God, Mary and Joseph were required by Jewish law to present their firstborn son at the Temple when he was only 40 days old. What purpose did such a practice serve? On one level, Mary and Joseph’s actions had no discernable effect on either them or Jesus. On a deeper level, however, the consequences were enormous.

Similar conversations sometimes arise when the subject of infant baptism comes up. “Why do it now?” people want to know. “Shouldn’t you wait until the child can make this decision herself?” While the individual’s commitment to a life of faith is certainly important, what happens in baptism—or in Jesus’ case, his presentation in the Temple—has nothing to do with human choice. What it does have to do with is grace.

We may like to see ourselves as totally responsible for our own spiritual development, but the real credit is always God’s. It is God’s initiative, God’s movement toward us that heals and restores our lives. This is no argument for quietism, no endorsement for a passive withdrawal from the world. It is, however, recognition of the fact that our transformation is ultimately the product of God’s mercy and God’s strength.

O God, give us grateful hearts for your grace and for those in our lives who have led us steadily toward you.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.