“When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb. . .” (Exodus 13:11-13a)
Our lectionary reading from Exodus provides us with some of the background behind the Gospel message from Luke. Following the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph went to the Temple to offer a sacrifice to redeem their firstborn son as commanded by the Lord. According to the Law of God, all the first-born human sons and the first-born males of the livestock belonged to the Lord and were to be set apart for His service. To redeem them, the Lord required an offering. The sacrificial offering served to remind the people of the serious and important nature of their relationship to the Lord. They owed everything to Him, including their lives. They all belonged to Him and were all called to do His will.
Both Israel and Jesus were set apart for the Lord’s work and will from their conception. The Lord called Abraham to be a light to the Gentiles, to show them the way and love of to the Lord. Israel as a nation was to take up this call, but over the centuries, she failed to do this. Israel forgot duty of the first born, forgot the Lord and served idols. Jesus came to earth to fulfill this calling to perfection. He is the only true Light of the world.
Jesus has redeemed us from the darkness of sin and evil, the darkness which envelops our world. Our calling, our mission is to walk in the Light of Jesus, to love all as He does. And Jesus shines through us. He calls us to shine His light in this darkness to show all human beings the pathway to faith and eternal life.