The Third Day of Christmas: Why The Bird Line Matters


December 27, 2014

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Luke 2:21-24

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

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.”


poorIf you are reading this entry today, chances are you live on a street and in a neighborhood and are part of a socioeconomic demographic far far different than the one into which Jesus was born. What do I mean by this? Let’s say we were participating in the same ritual as today’s text describes. We would be in the lamb line. Jesus’ family stood in the bird line.

Well over a thousand years earlier, after delivering the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt, God revealed the Law through Moses to his people. Does the word “Leviticus” ring a bell? Admittedly, at least for me, Leviticus was “fly-over” territory for most of my bible reading life. Thanks to some God gifted Bible Teachers, I know different now. Far more than I can reference now, Leviticus was a revolutionary document. It may say more about God’s intimate care for the human race than almost any other book in the bible.

Back to the bird line. . . . Honestly, I always thought those two doves offered as a sacrifice by Jesus’ family were those same “two turtle doves” from the “second day of Christmas.”

So why we would we likely not be in the line with Jesus’ family? One word answer: LEVITICUS.

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. Leviticus 12:8. 

See what I’m talking about? We live in the “Lamb” part of town. Jesus came from the “Bird” ward; the proverbial “other side of the tracks.” I say this not to make a point about us but to point out something utterly amazing about God.

A thousand years before, God made provision for the people who could not afford a Lamb. In the mind and heart of God, two pigeons would count exactly the same as a much more costly lamb. While other religious systems consider poverty as a curse from the gods, the God of Heaven and Earth makes provision for them.

It gets better. In the Law, when God made provision for the poor only God knew he would be making provision for himself all those years later. Who but God could make up that kind of mind-blowing application of the Golden Rule goodness? Think about it. All the religions of the world have some version of the Golden Rule– Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Only the followers of Jesus have a God who actually lives it out.

Summarizing– In Jesus, God made himself poor. There is a very real sense that we are most near to God when we are most near to the poor. See also Matthew 25:31-46 for a little extra digging today.

It gets even better. I’m going to give you the real kicker tomorrow.

On the third day of Christmas. . . . .

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at

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