Two Turtle Dove

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”


The day that Simeon and Anna blessed the baby Messiah, Mary and Joseph were visiting Jerusalem from out of town. The ritual that brought them to the temple was about Mary’s postpartum purification. It was commanded in Leviticus 12. 

When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.

These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.

Jesus would have been 40 days old, and it’s very likely that the young family had not been back home to Nazareth since they made the census-driven trek to Bethlehem. They were more than a month away from home, likely missing their routine. Joseph may have been scrambling to find work in a new town. And they were poor. Luke tells us that their sacrifice that day was a pair of dove and two young pigeons, not a lamb. 

I know it sounds strange to suggest that Mary might have been disappointed about giving birth to the Messiah, but consider her situation: out of town; lonely; away from her family, friends, and support system (she would have been further isolated while she waited out her purification period); struggling financially; unmarried. Mary had likely imagined every detail of her first child’s young life. She had planned to show him off, planned showers and sip-and-sees and Target gift registries. She had imagined cradling her child on the way to these very purification rites while Joseph led the family lamb, proud, grateful, happy to sacrifice to Yahweh, the Giver of life. 

Didn’t Mary, “she who is highly favored” deserve that much? More to the point, didn’t Jesus deserve that? 

But God’s plans didn’t meet Mary’s expectations. They seldom do.