When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The King Is Taken to the Temple

The next thing which happened in the child's life took place when he was a little more than a month old. One day, when the frost was out of the air and the winter had begun to change into the mildness of spring, his father and mother wrapped him up, and took him for a journey. It was his first sight of the world. Where do you suppose they carried him? Six miles they went, over hill and dale, from the little town to the big one, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. They could see the city a long way off, for it stood on a mountain. And in the midst of the city, with its roof overtopping all the others, shining in the sun, was the splendid church, the holy temple. Joseph and Mary watched it from afar as they made their way along the country road, not only because it was bright and beautiful, but because it was the end of their journey. That was their errand, to take the child to church.

There was service every day in the temple; and as Joseph and Mary passed along the city streets, climbing higher towards the sacred place, they saw many other people who were going in the same direction. Some of them were carrying little babies in their arms; for it was the custom to bring every first-born child to present him to the Lord. The child was brought to church, and the minister, in the name of God, received him with prayer, and then gave him back again to his father and mother. It was a solemn and beautiful way of saying, "All of these little children belong to God, our heavenly Father; and they are to be brought up and cared for and trained and taught as the children of God." Then followed a special service for the mother. The mother brought an offering, which, if she were poor, consisted of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. The service began with the burning of incense on the golden altar, in the Holy Place, as on the day when Zacharias saw the angel. After that, before the door of the Holy Place, on a great altar made of stone, the sacrifices were offered, while those who brought them stood close by, praying and praising God. The child's part of the service was called the Presentation; the mother's part was called the Purification.

So it was that day. The child was presented to the Lord, and the mother's offering was duly made, and the service was over. Now there was an old man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon. He was a very good and holy man, and, like many others, was wondering when the King would come. Simeon did not know that the King had come already; but he was sure that he must soon appear, for he had had a wonderful dream, and in the dream God had spoken to him, and had promised that before he died his eyes should behold the King of Glory. And since it was written in the Old Testament that the Lord should appear in the temple, Simeon was all the time expecting him at the daily services. Every day, as he climbed the temple hill, he said to himself, "The King may come to-day." Perhaps he thought that the sky would suddenly open, and there would be a great light, brighter than the sun, and out of heaven the King of Glory would come down.

But this morning, as he came into the temple, praying in his heart that his great desire might that day be granted, he heard the voice of a little child. And when he looked, there was a baby in its mother's arms. And as he looked again, for the child was very beautiful, a strange feeling came over him. It seemed as if God were speaking in his heart again, as He had spoken in his dream, and telling him that here at last was the answer to his prayer. He stopped and took the child up in his arms and blessed God. And he said, "I have seen the King of Glory. Now let me die in peace, for mine eyes have beheld him who shall be the Saviour of the world." And while Joseph and Mary marveled at the old man's words, he gave them his blessing, and said, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against."

Then came an aged woman, a widow, whose name was Anna. She was eighty-four years old, and all her time for many, many years had been spent in the temple. She was a prophetess; that is, her eyes were wonderfully opened to see the will of God. And she gave thanks to God when she saw the child, and spoke of him to all her friends.

So the parents went out of the temple with the child who had been thus strangely welcomed, and carried him back over the country road.