The Messiah Anna Longed For

Anna and New Parents

Exodus 13:2, 13b-16

2 Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”

And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’  It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

At the temple, the priests held a special ceremony for new mothers. It involved both cleansing her from her ‘time of impurity’ and dedicating the child.

For the firstborn male, God told his people and the priests to take it even more seriously. But the firstborn male who was also the firstborn of the woman? The baby boy who opened the womb? He was holy, set apart and needing a special redemption. A price had to be paid to allow families to raise their firstborn sons.

Anna witnessed family after family come forth to dedicate their sons. Some would have traveled a long distance to arrive by the eighth day. Depending on their social and family circumstances, they could arrive harried and tired or calm and rested. This impacted, too, whether they brought the sacrifice with them or purchased it in the court of the Gentiles.

When she could, Anna would have helped these new parents with the process. What made Mary and Joseph different that day? How did she know that this firstborn was the long-awaited holy one?

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