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Ogo Oluwa gẹgẹ bi igbejade ni tẹmpili

Yoruba | Luke 2:21–24, 39


Most African contexts have significant cultural practices for the circumcision, presentation, naming, and dedication of newborn babies. For example, in Yoruba contexts of Nigeria, a newborn male child is circumcised on the seventh day and named in a public ceremony on the ninth day. Every name is important, with meanings related to either moral values or what the baby is believed to be destined for in life. For example, my full name, as given to me by my great–grandmother, is Oluwafemi, which means “God loves me.” In Ghana, the term “outdooring” is used by the Akan and other ethnic groups for the ceremony that takes place when parents bring their newborn outdoors for the first time and bestow names in elaborate ceremonies. Most African rites of passage have deep moral values which, in response to the rapid expansion of Christianity in Africa through the grace of God, have become increasingly biblical and intentionally glorifying to God.

Luke’s account of the arrival of Jesus is a celebration of the glory of God on display as He fulfills His salvation plan. Mary and Zechariah wrote songs to celebrate. Elizabeth marvelled in private then exulted with Mary. Angels proclaimed God’s glory to shepherds in the field, and the shepherds echoed the angels’ praise and glory because of all they saw and heard that night. In Luke 2:21–24, Joseph and Mary continue to glorify God through rites of passage, obeying and fulfilling the Word of the Lord to them personally, through the angel, as well as what God had spoken in the past through the laws of Moses.

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

Jesus was born into a Jewish family, and He was circumcised on the eighth day as required by Jewish law for all male children. Circumcision was a sign of new life, instituted with God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:1–14). Mary and Joseph fulfilled this to glorify God, the giver of life! Likewise, Joseph and Mary followed the Word of the Lord to them by naming their baby Jesus, “the name the angel had given him before he was conceived” (Luke 2:21). When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he told her, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). An angel of the Lord had said similar things to Joseph (see Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” reflects His life’s purpose and mission, for “he will save his people from their sins.” Mary and Joseph fulfilled this to glorify God, the one who saves!

Presentation of the Baby in the Temple and Purification Offering

Joseph and Mary obeyed another Jewish law by fulfilling the requirement for purification. A Jewish woman was considered unclean after childbirth and had to remain indoors for thirty-three days before going to present the baby at the temple on the fortieth day (Leviticus 12:1–8). As required, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus, for “it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’” (Luke 2:23). This consecration of the firstborn son points back to God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13:1–16). Mary and Joseph fulfilled this to glorify God, the one who liberates from slavery! Likewise, at the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Joseph and Mary fulfilled another requirement of Jewish law by offering “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Doves or pigeons were the offering for people of modest means (Leviticus 12:8), so their offerings revealed how Jesus, at His coming, identified with the poor in God’s world. At the same time, these required offerings—a burnt offering and a sin offering—are provisions for God’s people to have sin atoned for and to be in relationship with God. Mary and Joseph fulfilled these to glorify God, the one who, in the Jesus they presented, is God with us and the atonement for our sin!

All to the Glory of God

This Advent season, we can delight in the glory of God as revealed through the obedience of Mary and Joseph. At the same time, we, too, shall do well to glorify God through obedience to His Word with all the saints in response to the Advent of Christ. Our faithfulness, like that of Mary and Joseph, honours Him and reveals His character, bearing witness to His glory before a watching world.

Accra, Ghana

Dr Femi Adeleye is a Langham Scholar and Langham– published author who currently serves as the Director of Langham Preaching for Africa and the Director of the Institute for Christian Impact (ICI) in Accra, Ghana

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