The Joyful Mysteries

The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
(Recited on Monday and Saturday)
1st Joyful Mystery- The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary
2nd Joyful Mystery- The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
3rd Joyful Mystery- The Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ
4th Joyful Mystery- The Presentation of our Lord
5th Joyful Mystery- The Finding Jesus in the Temple

The date of Jesus’ birth: The fulfillment of Tabernacles
Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Lk 3:1), who reigned from September 17, 14 AD[1] to 37 AD.  That means his 15th year began on September 17, 28 AD and ended at his 15th anniversary which would have been Sept. 17, 29 AD. 
John was the son of a priest.  John would have been trained as a priest.  A priest began his ministry at age 30.  We also know that Jesus was 30 when He was baptized by John and began his ministry (Lk 3:23), about 6 months after John began his ministry.   So, if John was 30 by September 17, 29 AD then he was born in 2 BC or late 3 BC.  There was no year 0.  So, if he was born in 2 BC, he was 1 in 1 BC; 2 in 1 AD; and 30 in 29 AD.  Thus, John would have most likely been conceived in 3 BC. 
We know from scripture that Zechariah was serving in the temple during his divisions “normal” course of service when the angel appeared to him (Lk 1:11).  Normal course of service means he was not serving during one of the convocations during which a man from any division could serve for the Feast specific offerings.  We know that he was of the division of Abijah (Lk 1:5) which is the eighth division.  There were 24 divisions (1Chr 24:7-18), and each served for a week twice a year.  24 divisions twice a year is 48 weeks. There are 51 weeks (50 weeks and 4 days) in a year on the Jewish calendar.  In a leap year there is an additional 4 weeks and 2 days. The temptation is to consider that the extra weeks were all common weeks or that the rotation continued during the leap year but paused during the convocations: festival weeks of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, when all men were required to be in Jerusalem. [2]  However Gemera  Suka 55b-56a [3] and Rambam Hilchos Klei Hamkidash 4:4-6[4] indicate that during the festivals all Kohanim, priests, could serve in the service that was specific to the holiday.  They were selected by lot for that service. They would all share from the Lechem Hapanim, the showbread, and the two breads of Shavuos, the leavened bread offered at Pentecost, but other sacrifices were brought by the mishmar, the division of priests, of that week [5].  Thus, the weeks served by each division shifted from year to year.  That means a division could over time serve in any of the weeks.  The Division of Jehoiarib was serving on the 9th of Av in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed.[6], [7] Working backwards on the temple calendar from the 9th of Av in 70 AD (through 3800 weeks) we can find when the courses were serving[8].   There are only 2 cases to consider:
1) John was conceived Shevat 10, 3758 (Jan 26, 3 BC) which would imply that Jesus was born on Nisan 15, 3759[9]. That might explain why the caravansary was full (there was no room in the inn).
2) John was conceived Av 1, 3758 (July 13, 3 BC) which implies that Jesus was born on Tishrei 15, 3760 (Sept 13, 2 BC).  That explains: why the caravansary was full; why Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger; why shepherds were sent to the manger; and how the Feast of Tabernacles was fulfilled, and even fulfills the Feast of Chanukah.
We know that Mary conceived right away since, when Mary arrived in Ein Kerem seven days later, Elizabeth knew she was pregnant.  We could then assume that Elizabeth likewise conceived right away, especially since Zechariah was given great incentive to believe what the Angel told him.  Since Zechariah didn’t initially believe, to make his point the Angel struck him mute (Lk 1:20) .  Scripture tells us that Zechariah served the rest of his week before returning home (Lk 1:23).  If Elizabeth conceived on Av 1, 3758, the night Zechariah returned home; then Av, Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev were the 1st thru 5th months of her pregnancy.  Tevet is Elizabeth’s 6th month.  If the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary on Tevet 2 then 278 days later (during the 40th week[10]), Mary gave birth on the 15th of Tishrei: The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of God with Us, The Feast of Emanuel.  That means the Incarnation occurred on the 8th day of Chanukah.  The number 8 stands for new beginnings and dedication to God:
·         Sukkoth lasts 8 days,
·         Boys are circumcised on the 8th day,
·         Temple dedication took 8 days. 
The 8th day of the celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple, after the temple had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanies, marked a new beginning in the relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh.  That year, 3 BC, it was truly a new beginning in man’s relationship with God: God became man! 
The Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day of Chanukah are the two celebrations of light in the Jewish religion.  On the eighth day of Chanukah all eight candles on the menorah are lit.  On that day Jesus, the light of the world, was conceived.  On the Feast of Tabernacles four giant menorahs were constructed in the court of women in the temple and lit[11].  The light from the four giant menorahs could be seen all over Jerusalem, making it light all night long, and the light from the 75’ menorahs could be seen in Bethlehem where Jesus, the light of the world, was born[12].
The Jewish tradition has been that Elijah would return on Passover, Nisan 15.  The angel told Zechariah that John would have the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17), so he would be born on Passover. [13]
All that being said, we could have simply looked at scripture.  Jesus fulfills all the Feasts of the Lord, so He also fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles with his birth on Tishrei 15.  Tabernacles celebrates God’s physical presence with the Israelites, in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during the Exodus and is also called the feast of Emanuel “God with us”.    
Thus, we have established from scripture the date of Jesus birth and validated it via the story of the conception of John the Baptist. There should be no further requirement, but our atheistic society demands extra biblical validation and Luke was kind enough to provide it.  The biggest obstacle to dating Christ birth is the belief that because Herod’s son began his reign in 4 BC, Herod must have died in 4 BC.  Thus, Jesus must have been born before Herod died.  However, Herod was reduced from a “friend” to a “subject” by Cesar Augustus in 4 BC[14] for sending troops into Arabia.  He did not die!  He then had to share his reign with his chosen heir, Antipater [15]
Antipater considered his two younger half-brothers who were of “Royal”, Hasmodean, descent a potential threat.  He connived to have them executed for treason.  Then Antipater plotted to kill Herod, so he would not have to wait to have control of the kingdom.  His plot was discovered and exposed.  Since Herod had been demoted, he had to get Varus, governor of Syria, to hear the case.  (That would be difficult to do while dead.)  Varus found Antipater guilty and left the punishment up to Herod.  Herod ordered him executed[16].  Herod then decided to split the kingdom between his three remaining sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip.  Their reigns were antedated to when Herod was demoted to show the continuity of reign.  Coins confirm that antedating was common.  Herod died 3 years after Antipater was executed[17].
Josephus gives two indications of the length of the rule of Herod: 1) He says Herod had a reign of 37 years from the time he was proclaimed king by the Romans and; 2) He says he reigned for 34 years after the death of Antigonus, which happened shortly after Herod took Jerusalem.[18]  Herod took Jerusalem late in 36 BC (after the fast which occurs from the 3rd through the 9th of Tishrei; the 17th through the 23rd of September in 36 BC):  Josephus says Herod captured Jerusalem 27 years to the day that Pompey committed his abominations, which happened in 63 BC.  He also said it was on the occasion of the 185th Olympiad which began in July of 36 BC.[19]  Both clearly give 36 BC for Herod's capture of Jerusalem.  If we use the common accession method of counting years of rule [20], a practice the Jews copied from the Babylonians, the date to start his 34 years is on the 1st of Tishrei in 35 BC or on the 1st of Nisan in 35 BC (the beginning of the Temple year following the capture of Jerusalem).  So, Herod's 34th year of rule would start with the 1st of Tishrei in 2 BC and end with the 1st of Tishrei in 1 BC or would start with the 1st of Nisan in 2 BC and end with first of Nisan in 1 BC.  Now 34 years after 35 BC would give 1 BC for the death and end of the reign of Herod.  Because Josephus points out the fast that occurs from the 2nd to the 10th of Tishrei, it is likely he was using the Judean tradition of accession dating beginning the years with the Secular Calendar rather than the Northern kingdom tradition of non-accession dating beginning with the Religious calendar.
Josephus also tells us that Herod burned Matthias and his companions for raising a sedition. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.”[21] Herod died soon after the total eclipse of the moon as indicated by Josephus.  The eclipse occurred on Jan. 10, 1 BC. [22]
Jul Date
Time
Type
Umbra Magnitude
Duration
Lat
Lon
Jan 10, 1 BC
02:04:40
Total
1.7825
98.8
22N
16E


Luke also ties the birth of Jesus to a census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Lk 2:2).  This has caused problems because Quirinius reigned from 6 to 9 AD. But considering that: “there was found near Tibur (Tivoli) in AD.1764 a fragment of marble known as the Lapis Tiburtinus, with part of an inscription, which is now preserved in the Lateran Museum of Christian Antiquities, as one of the important monuments bearing on the history of Christianity:
Lapis Tiburtinus
The inscription records the career and honors of a Roman official who lived in the reign of Augustus, and who survived that emperor. He conquered a nation; he was rewarded with two Supplicationes and the Ornamenta Triumphalia, i.e., the gorgeous dress of a triumphing general, with ivory scepter and chariot, etc.; he governed Asia as proconsul; and he twice governed Syria as legatus of the divine Augustus.
Though the name has perished, yet these indications are sufficient to show with practical certainty (as all the highest authorities are agreed -- Mommsen, Borghesi, de Rossi, Henzen, Dessau, and others), that the officer who achieved this splendid career was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius.  His government of Syria in 6-9 AD, was therefore his second tenure of that office. He had administered Syria at some previous time. Is not this earlier administration the occasion to which Luke refers? [23]
“Here again, however, we are confronted with a serious difficulty. The supreme authority on the subject, Mommsen, considers that the most probable date for Quirinius's first government of Syria is about BC.3-1.” [24]
That serious difficulty evaporates when we realize that Jesus was born in 2 BC not sometime before 4 BC as was assumed by Mommsen and others.
We have established now that Quirinius was the Governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth.  We still want to validate the rest of Luke’s statement, that there was a requirement to go to the ancestral home for taxation. The Romans levied both a Land Tax and a Poll tax.  The Land Tax was levied every 14 years and only affected the wealthy who owned property.  The Poll Tax was also levied every 14 years.  It affected both men (age 14 to 60) and women (age 12 to 60).  The Poll Tax required everyone to return to their home city and register.  The Poll Taxation occurred half way between the Land taxations.  There was a Land tax riot mentioned by Josephus which occurred in 6 AD.  Thus, the prior Land Tax would have occurred in 9BC and the Poll tax would have occurred in 2 BC and would have been executed by Quirinius during his first reign as governor of Syria from 3 to 1 BC.[25]

Annunciation - December 9, 3 BC/Tevet 2, 3759 [26]
The true light, that enlightens every man, was coming into the world."  (Jn 1:5-9). 

Our Father
Mary lived in the temple from the time she was weaned until she was twelve.[27]  She was trained in the spirit of the law and prophets: philosophically an Essene.  The Essenes prayed, fasted, and denied themselves pleasures, as a sacrifice, to beseech God to send the Messiah.  Mary, along with many other Essene men and women, committed herself to a vow of celibacy as part of a “prayer chain” to bring the Messiah.[28],[29].  Mary’s private prayer was to be allowed to be the handmaid of the mother of the Messiah[30].  Thus, she learned to weave and sew providing the items needed for service in the temple while learning skills necessary to be a handmaid.[31]  To protect her wish to maintain her vow of celibacy, the priests, with the consent of Mary’s father[32], betrothed Mary to Joseph who had also committed himself to lead a life of celibacy.  Mary’s betrothal was arranged by the priests.  The kiddushin, the betrothal ceremony, was celebrated before she left the temple, when she turned twelve.  With the betrothal Joseph committed himself to provide for Mary’s support after she was no longer supported by her father.  At twelve, Mary could no longer stay in the temple,[33] so she returned to Nazareth to rejoin her family.  At that same time, Joseph relocated from Bethlehem to Nazareth to be close to Mary whom he was now committed to protect and to provide for after she no longer lived with her parents.[34]
Mary turned 14 on August 5, 3 BC.[35]  On December 9, 3 BC, Mary is 4 months past her 14th birthday.  A betrothal with intent to consummate the relationship usually only lasted a year unless one of the betrothed was under age: 12 for a girl, 13 for a boy.  Mary has been betrothed 2 years and 4 months after becoming of age, well beyond the normal time between the kiddushin, betrothal, and the nisu’in, the husband taking his bride to his home.[36], [37] When a couple is betrothed they are committed to each other, but each remains with his or her own family.  (HM-1)
December 9th, Tevet 2, was the last day of Chanukah that year.  While at the local well drawing a pitcher of water, Mary sensed a presence, heard a voice, and seeing no one she became frightened and fled to her home.[38]
 There, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her saying: “Hail Mary full of grace!  The Lord is with you (Lk 1:28)
Grace is what draws us to God.  This is the only time in scripture that an angel greets someone by title in addition to a personal name[39] and the angel is also indicating that Mary is already completely drawn to God.  (HM-2)
Mary was greatly troubled and wondered what sort of greeting this might be (Lk 1:29). Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God (Lk 1:30).
Gabriel says: “Behold you will conceive and bear a son and you will name him Jesus” (Lk 1:31).  (Yeshua: ‘Yahweh saves’). [40]  “He will be great and will be called ‘Son of the Most High’, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of David forever, and of his kingship there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).   
That is the Messiah!  Mary is to be the mother of the Messiah!  (HM-3)
But both she and Joseph have vowed to live a life of celibacy.  Mary asks: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" [I am under a vow of celibacy [41] (Lk 1:34).  (HM-4)
The angel tells Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35).   (HM-5)
God himself is to Father the Messiah!  Mary’s vow of celibacy is key to her selection (Is 7:14) [42] 
There can be no possibility of another father.  (HM-6)
Gabriel continued: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail (Lk 3:36-37).”
Mary’s child is to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God!  How could Mary have said anything but yes?  There is one rather large problem: Joseph, her betrothed.  When Mary is found to be pregnant, Joseph can denounce her, and she will be stoned for adultery.[43]  Mary’s response is one of complete surrender to God: her heart’s only desire is to do God’s will.  To even consider the consequences is to attempt to control, which is against the complete surrender to God’s will.[44]
      Mary says: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be it done to me according to your word.”  And the angel departed from her (Lk 1:38).  (HM-7)
God’s plan for salvation was dependent on a human.  With Mary’s “Yes” came the Incarnation: God assumed human nature!  God entered his own creation!  Jesus is both God and is fully man. 
As God’s plan unfolds, it is Tevet 2, the last (8th) day of the celebration of Chanukah.  The number 8 signifies new beginnings.  The feast of Chanukah celebrates the re-dedication of the temple after it had been profaned by the Syrian armies under Antiochus Epiphanes.  It took 8 days to complete the re-dedication.  For the people of Israel, that 8th day, in 3623, 139 BC, represented a new beginning in their relationship with Yahweh.  In the year 3759 on the same day on the Jewish Calendar, which occurred that year on December 9th of 3 BC, it was another very new beginning in God’s relationship with man! God has become man!  That day, the completion of Chanukah, was called the little celebration of light and was closely tied to the big celebration of light during the Feast of Tabernacles.  That day the true light that enlightens every man came into the world.  (HM-8)
God has answered Mary’s prayer, Joseph’s prayer, the prayers of all the Essenes, and of all Israel!  What joy she must feel!  (HM-9)
Elizabeth got it right when she said: “Happy is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45).  Share Mary’s joy!  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)[45]

Reflections on the Annunciation

“And the angel departed from her” [46]
I consider it important to focus also on the final sentence of Luke’s Annunciation narrative: “And the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38). The great hour of Mary’s encounter with God’s messenger—in which her whole life is changed—comes to an end, and she remains there alone, with a task that truly surpasses all human capacity.  There are no angels standing around her. She must continue along the path that leads to many dark moments–from Joseph’s dismay at her pregnancy, [the flight into Egypt, learning the names of the children slaughtered by Herod’s soldiers, the journey back to Jerusalem in search of her son], to the moment when Jesus is said to be out of his mind (Mk 3:21; Jn 10:20), right up to the night of the cross.
How often in these situations must Mary have returned inwardly to the hour when God’s angel had spoken to her, pondering afresh the greeting: “Rejoice, full of grace!” And the consoling words: “Do not be afraid!” The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch.
Why would God become part of his creation?
       We are spiritual beings immersed in a physical experience, constrained by time.  You, Father, chose this physical experience as the mechanism to raise spiritual beings that are made in your image and likeness.  From all eternity, You planned to come into your own creation to show us how to be like You.  You knew man would fall.  You wanted us to learn to love.  You wanted us to choose to love.  You wanted us to learn that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone.  As the father of us all You knew the way to teach us was to teach by example; so, You, in the person of your son, became man to give us the example.  You wanted us to learn to see beyond ourselves.  We need to be shown.  Give me the grace to learn.  Give me the gifts of the Holy spirit so I can help to draw others to you.
Why was I blessed to be shown God’s love while others have not?
God has a plan for each of us.  We each have a role to play.  God has given me a task that requires the gifts he has given me.  Help me, Mary, to do what God has planned for me.  Give me the guidance to see the direction I must go.  Lead me to your Son for if I stay close to him I will be safe.  Mary help me to realize that everyone has a role to play in God’s plan.  Help me to see Jesus in everyone.  God loves us all the same and each has been given what is required.  We are all brothers on a similar journey.  After all the greatest human that ever lived, other than Jesus, who was also God, was you Mary, who aspired to be a handmaid!  In the spiritual dimension, greatest is determined by love; not power, fame, or wealth!
Mary’s love for God allowed her to risk life: Trust
When I love, make a sacrifice for someone, there is no guarantee that the beloved will accept my gift.  Jesus, when you sacrificed yourself on the cross, you knew not everyone you loved would accept your sacrifice.  You were willing to take the heart break of rejection you loved us so much.  Mary, you loved God so much, you were willing to risk anything, simply because it was your Love, God, who asked.  Mary’s trust in God was such that she did not even need to consider the consequences.  It was God’s will, that was enough!
Prayer as more than words
Mary, you were completely drawn to God even as a little girl.  Your whole life was made into a prayer as you took a vow a celibacy.   Prayer is communicating with God or the saints in heaven.  We can also communicate with more than words.  Just as a picture is worth a 1000 words, an action is worth a 1000 pictures.  Help me to love without seeking recognition as you did.  Help me to do things for others without them knowing they have ever been done.  Cleaning up a mess (pet or child made a mess) before anyone knows it has ever happened and then never mentioning it.  Doing chores that belong to others to make their job lighter.  Every act of love is a prayer in action.  Help me to be grateful for all that has been given me, remind me to thank God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Remind me to be grateful to others.  It makes someone feel good to receive acknowledgement of their contributions.  As we are all members of the Mystical body any act of gratitude is an act of gratitude to your son.   Never let me forget that your special ones are closest to your son.   That an act of kindness to one of the special ones whether infant, aged or handicapped is a prayer you will never forget.
Coincidences
The Annunciation happened on the last, 8th day of Chanukah. That feast celebrates the re-dedication (new beginning) of the people’s relationship with God.  The number 8 stands for new beginnings.  God became human on that day.
Mary wanted to go to help Elizabeth and there were visitors from Jerusalem who would be returning home after Chanukah.  Nazareth was an out of the way place.  Caravans to Jerusalem were not a regular occurrence.
 The Festival of Lights
         The 8th day of Chanukah, on which all the lights on the Menorah are lit is closely tied to the Feast of Tabernacles at which there were four giant Menorahs lit in the Court of the Women in the temple to symbolize the light provided by the pillar of fire during the Exodus.  The light could be seen all over Jerusalem and was even visible in Bethlehem.  What a coincidence that the Light of the World would also be conceived on the eighth day of Chanukah and 40 weeks later be born on the Feast of Tabernacles. I wonder which had the greater light: the four 75ft Menorahs in the Court of the Women or the 4 million candle power of the 8 candles per Menorah in a half a million homes of the Israelites.

Visitation - approximately 12/16/-3 to 3/19/-2 about 3 months(Lk 1:56)
A Love Story

Our Father
As Mary reflected on the words of the angel, she realized the angel had given her a sign in the pregnancy of Elizabeth.  Gabriel had said: “Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:36-37).  (HM-1)  
Mary rejoiced for Elizabeth.  Aunt Elizabeth[47] lived only 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) from the temple where Mary lived for 8 years.  Being childless, Elizabeth devoted care and attention to the children in the Temple.  During her stay in the Temple, Mary saw much more of her aunt than she did of her parents, who lived 90 miles (145 kilometers) away.  Mary knew how much her own child would mean to Elizabeth.  As she thought about Elizabeth, Mary also realized that Elizabeth, because of her age, would need help during the last months of her pregnancy and she was already in her sixth month.  Mary was delighted at the thought of helping Elizabeth.  She had to go to Elizabeth!  Now Elizabeth needed her!

It was the last day of Chanukah, an 8-day Feast, one of the few that does not require travel to Jerusalem.  Chanukah was an opportunity for people from Jerusalem to travel to spend the holiday with friends and relatives who did not live in Jerusalem. (On the other holidays, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, everyone had to come to Jerusalem).  There were likely visitors from Jerusalem in Nazareth who would be returning to Jerusalem right after the feast, on Tuesday December 10th, the 3rd of Tevet.  We are told that “Mary made haste” (Lk 1:39) so, Mary likely joined that caravan going from Nazareth back to Jerusalem, leaving the following morning.  Elizabeth lived in Ein Karem, Israel, which is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.  Mary only went with the caravan as far as the turn off to Ein Karem, which is about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from Ein Karem.  “Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.[48]  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leapt in her womb (Lk 1:40-41), and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, realized that Mary was the mother of the Messiah.  (HM-2)  
Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice; “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:41-43).   Elizabeth knows!
Mary followed the sign given by the angel Gabriel and is rewarded with confirmation of the angel’s message!  Now, suddenly Mary has someone with whom to share her joy!  God has not only filled Mary with joy at the Annunciation, He wants Mary to experience the full measure of joy, so He has now provided someone to share it with.  Someone who also has great joy to share: Elizabeth was barren and now she is pregnant and in her 6th month (Lk 1:37).   Elizabeth has just recently come out of seclusion (Lk 1:24) and somehow Mary already knows and has come all the way from Nazareth to help her.  Joy is not complete until it is shared.  (HM-3)
Notice also that Mary turns everything to God.  Mary immediately proclaims how great God is: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for He has regarded the humility of his handmaid.  For behold henceforth all generations will call me fortunate;[49] for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever” (Lk 1:46-55).
    When did I last turn a complement to God’s glory where it truly belongs? When did I last give glory to God?  (HM-4)
It is important to realize the humility of Mary.  She did not consider herself a candidate to be the mother of the Messiah.  Mary truly considered herself just a handmaid who loved God and her people.  She loved so much that she had committed to make her whole life a prayer to bring the Messiah into the world.  Now she is to be the instrument that brings him into the world.  (HM-5)
Elizabeth is also someone with whom Mary can share her concerns as well as her joy.  As Mary thinks about her situation she turns to Elizabeth for advice.  Mary has shared the story of the angel’s visit with Elizabeth.  Thus, Elizabeth knows that Joseph isn’t aware of it and that there was no mention of Joseph during the angels visit.  Mary had a deep love and respect for Joseph.  She does not want Joseph to be hurt nor does she know how to tell him.  Mary and Elizabeth surely talk about the approach to telling him and concluded that it was a problem best left for God.  They would not presume to know the rest of God’s plan or Joseph’s place in it!  It is the height of arrogance to attempt to do God a favor.  They would simply trust God to handle it.  (HM-6)
Mary would meet her betrothed, Joseph, for Passover.  As Mary’s betrothed, Joseph would have been expected to join Mary’s extended family to celebrate the Passover Seder meal.  He probably traveled from Nazareth with Mary’s parents for the festival in Jerusalem. 
One Year Old Male Lamb
Mary’s extended family: relatives, friends and neighbors numbered at least 70: men, women, and children. The minimum number required to consume a year-old lamb was 10 adult males (males over 13) with their immediate families, while the average number was 20 adult males.  A year-old male lamb weighed from 70 to 100 lbs. (32 to 45 kg). A small lamb weighing 70 lbs. (32 kg) produced 27 lbs. (12 kg) of meat.[50]  The entire lamb needed to be consumed.  Anything left over had to be burnt.
Joseph has not seen Mary for at least 3 months.  By Passover Mary was in her 15th week[51] (see the 4th month), enough to tell on a woman who was accustomed to fasting: a regular practice for a devout Israelite.  Mary was likely self-conscious and Joseph was perceptive enough to recognize the problem.  Mary saw the confusion and pain in Joseph’s face.  There was nothing she could say. 
Stages of Pregnancy
Elizabeth was overcome by the stress of the situation: seeing Joseph as he looked at Mary, watching Mary as Joseph looked at her, trying to protect Mary, trying to communicate to Joseph the integrity of Mary, but Mary is obviously pregnant, and yet Elizabeth cannot address the obvious.  The combination of the stress of Mary’s situation and the stress of Passover Meal preparations: three meals for the extended family, 70 plus people, to be prepared before sun down was likely enough stress to cause Elizabeth to go into labor and deliver early![52]  That would have distracted Joseph and the rest of the family.  (HM-7)  
After Elizabeth’s baby is born and the Seder meal finished, things began to settle down.  Joseph laid down for the night in a common area (likely the roof) with the rest of the extended family.[53] 
His thoughts return to Mary and her situation.  Mary left suddenly 3 months ago, had she been attacked?  He was hurting.  He felt betrayed.  Then he considered the consequences to Mary.  It was not his child, so if he denounced her she would likely be stoned to death as an adulteress.  Over the two and a half years that he has known Mary, he has grown to love her.  Mary was such a good, kind, and loving girl.  She had an incredible love of God.  It was difficult to understand how this could have happened.  He could not let such a one be stoned.  If instead he just submitted a writ of divorce to the Great Sanhedrin,[54] then she would be a repudiated woman and free to marry the father of her child, if that was what she wanted.  But, because he had not divorced her for adultery, people would think that he was the father.  He would be considered a “deadbeat” father and be scorned and possibly even shunned for casting Mary off while she was with child.  As shameful as that would be, he could not leave Mary subject to the law (stoning).  Joseph chose to divorce Mary privately rather than to make an example of her (Mt 1:19).    He chose to give up his own reputation for Mary.  Joseph chose to take on “Mary’s guilt”, just has Jesus has taken on our guilt.  There is no greater love than to give up your life for someone (Jn 15:13).
 
Typical home during Jesus' time
Joseph fell asleep, praying over the problem, but his decision has been made.  An angel appeared to him in a dream.  
It must have been a dream as only Joseph, in a crowded room, saw or heard the angel and yet it was so real that Joseph was wide awake at the end and could not doubt its reality. 
The angel said: “Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary, your wife, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit: she will bear a son and you will name him Jesus, ‘Yahweh saves’, for He will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21).  
Naming Jesus was an adoptive act.  Joseph was to adopt Jesus as his own son.  The Angel had asked Joseph if he would take Mary into his home and be the father to Jesus.   I wonder if Joseph slept at all the remainder of the night.  Joseph pondered the implications of being a father to the Messiah, a father to the Son of God!  He had thought, with his vow of celibacy, he would never get to experience the joy of fatherhood.  He had thought that, even though he was a descendant of David, he was not worthy to even be considered to be in line for the fatherhood of the Messiah.  He took the vow of celibacy as a prayer to bring the Messiah. Now the Messiah was not only coming, He was coming into Joseph’s care!  His sorrow has turned to great joy: his prayer for the Messiah has been answered.  Mary is not an adulteress, she is the mother of the Messiah!  He can hardly wait for Mary to awake. 
Consider the joy in the house on the following morning, the morning following the Seder Supper.  Mary and Joseph shared the stories of their respective angelic visits: “Mary, an angel came to me last night…”  Think of the flood of relief and joy that poured over Mary at those words! 
Elizabeth and Zechariah are now parents of a son, just as the angel had told Zechariah.  They are now also overwhelmed with relief and delight at the sight of Mary and Joseph together: hand in hand and grinning from ear to ear!  One look at the joy on Mary’s face and Elizabeth knows that Joseph is also part of God’s plan. 
Mary’s parents are told that they will be grandparents after all, of the Messiah!  (Remember Mary’s father had to give his permission for Mary to take a vow of celibacy.)  (HM-8)
The Seder celebration has a custom of setting an extra place at the table for Elijah, because of the tradition that Elijah would return on Passover.[55]  That year, with the birth of John the Baptist, whom the angel Gabriel told Zechariah had the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17), Elijah did return for the Seder meal on Passover of 2 BC.
Normally the father of the groom determines when a marriage for a betrothed couple will be formalized: the nisu’in is celebrated under the wedding canopy.  Hence the saying “Only the Father knows the day and the hour” (Mt 24:36).  The father determines the day and the hour based on the couple’s behavior.  Think about that in the context of Mt 24:36. (HM-9)
But if Joseph was 30 years old then he alone could decide when the nisu’in is celebrated.  Joseph and Mary likely celebrated it that same day, while together with the extended family in Jerusalem.  Zechariah, a priest, has known Mary’s situation for three months.  He gladly officiates at the ceremony (with someone reading the words for him as is normally done even today for a priest or minister who lost his speech to a stroke).
Since John was born on Passover, his circumcision would have taken place on Passover Yizkor. [56]  Circumcisions took place on the 8th day even if it fell on a Sabbath.  Mary and Joseph would have stayed for the celebration.  They would not have left for home until Nisan 23. [57]   
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zechariah,after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No, he will be called John.”
     And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.
     Zechariah asked for a tablet and wrote as follows: “His name is John.” And they were all astonished and at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 
     All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

     And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his servant [a prophecy concerning Jesus]  - as He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old - Salvation from our enemies from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant.  The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
     “And [concerning his own son] you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways to give to his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”(Lk 1:57-79).  [Jesus is the dawn from on high, the “Sunrise”, who will visit us bringing ‘life’, ‘light’, and ‘peace’]. [58], [59]
After sharing such a powerful experience as that which occurred throughout the Feast of Passover; Mary and Joseph did not leave until they had made plans to return in the fall when they would be relocating to Bethlehem, a suburb of Jerusalem.[60]  Both Mary and Joseph knew that Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), Joseph’s home town.   Even if they hadn’t remembered it, Zechariah would surely have reminded them.  Knowing Mary was carrying the Messiah; Zechariah would have reviewed all the scriptural prophesies relating to the Messiah.
Mary and Joseph had been betrothed for almost 3 years.  Mary has been away from home, Nazareth, for just over three months and returns a married woman.  Joseph’s family is from Bethlehem where the wedding would have normally been held.  No one in Nazareth would have expected a wedding in Nazareth. 
Mary and Joseph left Nazareth for Bethlehem 3 weeks before Jesus’ birth, the last week of August.  They then fled from Herod by going from Bethlehem to Alexandria, Egypt.[61]  The Holy Family did not return to Nazareth for almost 8 months.  They did not return to Nazareth until after Passover in 1 BC, returning from Jerusalem with the caravan from Nazareth on Sunday, April 15th, 1 BC.  The timing of Jesus birth versus the formalization of the marriage would simply never have arisen.   (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Visitation

Mary’s initial thought was service
Mary, your initial reaction to the angel’s message was to go and help Elizabeth.  You immediately decided to go take a 90 mile, 6-day walk to help someone.  My reaction would be: “Good for her, I’ll bet she is excited.”  Teach me to focus on service for that too is prayer.  It is taking an active part in the Mystical Body of your son.  Help me to recognize opportunities to serve.
Turn the praise back to God
       Mary, when Elizabeth recognized you as the mother of the Messiah, your first reaction was to turn the praise to God.  You turned Elizabeth’s focus directly to God.  Help me to keep in mind that all things come from God and all praise belongs to God.  If I am given the gift to accomplish something it is only because God has first given me both the opportunity and the skills necessary to accomplish it.  I have simply been blessed to be his instrument.
Do not presume to do God a favor
God can do anything.  He does not need me to do anything for him.  If he wants something he will ask directly or through one of his messengers (angels).  Most often though, He provides both an opportunity through a series of coincidences and a compulsion to do what He is asking.  If he has not asked, it is not time and He may even block my attempts to do so.  It is presumption to think that God needs me to do something.  It is likely not possible to be more arrogant.  Lord give me the grace to recognize that when you have not presented the opportunity it is simply not time.  Give me the wisdom to recognize when it is time.  Give me the humility to accept that I am not finished.  Give me the grace to see what still needs to be done.  Thank you, Lord for what you have provided already. God has given me the desire, so I must change my prayer to one of “Show me what I must do to be ready.”
Mary was given a sign by Gabriel
When Mary went to Ein Kerem to see Elizabeth she was also responding to the sign given her by Gabriel.  For her effort she was rewarded with confirmation of all that the angel had said, since Elizabeth realized she was carrying the Messiah.  Elizabeth’s words: “Happy is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45were fulfilled at that very moment.
Joseph was not told until he had decided to give his life for Mary
Joseph, God chose to wait until you had decided what to do about Mary, before He let you in on his plan.  I think He wanted you to know that you had in fact chosen to give yourself for Mary.  He wanted you to know you had freely chosen love.  Help me to love.  Keep me aware of my choices in the little things of the day.  Picking up some trash on the floor, putting something left out away, taking out the trash, a word of encouragement, an acknowledgement of the effort of another, and doing what needs to be done are also acts of love.  You lived a life in the background, always there, always providing, always loving.  Help me to imitate you.  God has shown me that in doing things for love, that are never mentioned, God will not be out done in generosity:  Peace reigns, the Kingdom of God comes.  I wish I knew more about you, Joseph.  I love the staircase you built in Santa Fe.  That was something beautifully done and then you simply left, asking for no acknowledgement or payment.

Nativity - September 13, 2 BC/Tishrei 15, 3760
The birth of the Lamb of God

Our Father
That summer there came a decree, from Caesar Augustus, that the entire world should be taxed.[62]  Joseph, being from the house of David and intending to relocate to his home town, Bethlehem, now also had to go to Bethlehem to register for the poll tax (Lk 2:1-3). The census during the reign of Quirinius [63] required all to travel to their own city sometime during the fall and winter months: when harvest was over.  Harvest completion was marked by the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkoth, an 8-day feast, beginning on Tishrei 15.  
The Feast is in remembrance of God’s physical presence with the Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire, during the Exodus (Ex 13:21).  It is also called the Feast of God with us, in Hebrew: “Emanuel”.   (HM-1)
The Israelites lived in booths, called a sukkot, during the Exodus.  They were accompanied during their journey by the physical presence of God in the Pilar of cloud by day and a Pilar of fire by night.  They were also provided water from the rock that accompanied them during the
Exodus.  Thus there are three components to the celebration of Tabernacles: lights, water, and booths: 
  1. The Illumination of the Temple Ceremony[64] in which four oil fed lamps, seventy-five-foot Menorahs, provided light to the entire city all night long just as the pillar of fire provided light during the Exodus (Jesus is the light of the world).
  2. The Joyous Water-Drawing Ceremony. [65]
  3.  On Sukkoth, water was also poured over the altar in a special ceremony. This ritual engendered such joy that it was celebrated with music, dancing and singing all night long.  It celebrates the fact that during the Exodus water flowed from the rock that accompanied them during their journey (Jesus is the source of living water.[66])  (HM-2)
    Expensive Sukkah                                          Exodus Encampment                                         Minimum Sukkah
    Holy Land Caravansary

  4. Tabernacles is also called Shelters or Booths because during the entire eight days, all Israelites are required to live in shelters, called sukkot, like they did during the Exodus. The sukkot are tents for the wealthy but for the common people, like a carpenter and his wife, it was a kind of lean-to. A sukkot must have at least 3 sides, allow the stars to be visible, and have a cover of branches: a leaky thatched roof. If it rains you are supposed to get wet!
Joseph needed to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles as it is a convocation during which every Israelite male over 13 was required to go to the designated place of worship: Jerusalem.  Bethlehem is a suburb of Jerusalem, just 5 miles (8 kilometers) to the south.  Although it is only 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Nazareth to Jerusalem the route the caravan would take was 92 miles (148 kilometers) to avoid going through Samaria.
Travel arrangements were complicated by the fact that a large group, most of whom are on foot, could only travel 15 miles (24 kilometers) per day [67] and Jerusalem was 92 miles (148 kilometers) away via the Kings Road. That meant a 6-day trip. Normally you would begin a 6-day trip on Sunday and arrive on Friday in time for the Sabbath. The Feast of Tabernacles, the 15th of Tishrei, was always a Sabbath and that year it fell on the Sabbath so for the 92-mile (148 kilometer) trip one would need to leave on the 9th. But the 10th of Tishrei was always a Sabbath since it was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day the year. Then the 8th that year was a Sabbath and the 1st and 2nd was the Feast of Trumpets also a Sabbath. Unless you wanted to spend a Sabbath or two in a caravansary you were going to have to leave on the 24th of Elul (August 24th).  Thus, there were probably 2 caravans from Nazareth that year. The first on the 24th of Elul enabling the travelers to spend all the feast days in Jerusalem and the second caravan would have left on the 7th of Tishri (September 5th) giving those travelers an extra ten days to finish the harvesting, but their trip was 8 days instead of 6. The additional 2 days were spent in a caravansary joined in prayer with other travelers.  It can be noted that a group with mounts (donkeys, horses, or camels) could easily make 25 miles (40 kilometers) per day making the journey in 4 days but everyone would need to be mounted. A group with no children or elderly could travel 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a day, making the journey in 5 days.
Mary and Joseph joined the first caravan, as that provided them the safety of travel in a caravan with their possessions, since they were moving to Bethlehem.  It also allowed them to spend the feasts of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with Elizabeth and Zechariah as they had planned.  Mary and Joseph loaded their possessions onto a donkey cart[68] and joined their neighbors traveling in the caravan from Nazareth to Jerusalem.  During the 6-day journey from Nazareth the caravan stopped for the night at caravansaries: inns with a central courtyard.  The central courtyard was intended for the pack animals: camels, mules, donkeys, horses, and oxen that were used to transport the travelers and their baggage.  The courtyard provided security for the travelers’ property from wild animals and bands of thieves.  The poor travelers stayed in the courtyard with the animals while the wealthy rented space in the inn.  The courtyard in unpopulated areas usually contained a mini market providing provender for the pack animals and food and supplies for the travelers.  (HM-3)
Mary and Joseph likely separated from the caravan at the turn off to Ein Karem just as Mary had done when she went to help Elizabeth.  They still had 2 weeks before the baby was due and they haven’t seen Elizabeth and Zechariah since John was circumcised and Zechariah regained his speech.  They remained with Elizabeth and Zechariah through the first of the holidays.  They planned to leave Ein Karem for Bethlehem on the 14th of Tishrei, Friday the 12th of September, and set up their sukkah in Bethlehem thereby spending the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles with Joseph’s family.  Joseph planned on preparing their house[69] while they were living in the sukkah as was required during the eight-day feast.  They set out on Friday morning for the 6.75-mile trip to Bethlehem. (A donkey cart can travel 3 mph and can travel for 10 hours/day).[70]  At 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) per hour traveling by themselves the trip would only have taken about 2.5 hours.  They were traveling along the south side of Jerusalem never more than a few miles (kilometers) from Jerusalem which would have been safe traveling.
Travelers without family or friends in Jerusalem, upon arriving in environs of Jerusalem, set up their sukkot in the central courtyard of the caravansaries with the pack animals and baggage.  This allowed them to leave their property in the caravansary and go to the Temple or market, as was required, without fear of losing their property.  With the courtyards filling up with sukkot even the caravansaries as far away as Bethlehem filled quickly.  For the next 8 days, no one lived inside!  The Greek word for “caravansary” which is used by Luke in his Gospel has been translated into English as “inn”.  
Arriving at the caravansary in Bethlehem early Friday afternoon, Joseph discovers the courtyard is already full of sukkot (there is physically no room in the “inn”, the caravansary courtyard, to set up even a poor man's sukkah).  (HM-4)
Joseph has family in Bethlehem, so he seeks them out to set up his sukkah with theirs and at the same time to arrange for assistance for Mary who was now beginning labor.  It is suggested that rather than use Joseph’s sukkah, they use one of the nearby stables [71] .  The stables were only used to protect new born lambs from the cold weather.  The stables are currently empty since the temple flocks are still in pasture.[72]
Joseph’s sukkah does not provide the required privacy for giving birth.  The stable qualifies as a sukkah, provides privacy, and is much warmer than Joseph’s lean-to.  Joseph’s family is there to assist Mary with the birth of Jesus.  (HM-5)
When my daughter had her first child, a son, as she lay in the hospital bed holding her son, she looked up at me and said: “I didn’t think it was possible to love a human being this much!”  Worn out from hours of labor, hair in dis-array, with no makeup, her face radiated with so much joy, I have never seen her so beautiful! 
Consider the joy felt by both Mary and Joseph.  They also know that their little baby boy is the long-awaited Messiah!   The baby is God’s Son.  God’s own son is the answer to their prayer for the Messiah!  (HM-6)
Their joy is magnified when shepherds arrive[73] with news that a host of angels had appeared and that the angels were singing praise to God.  The shepherds explain that the angels told them where to find the child (Lk 2:8-16).   Mary and Joseph are now sharing their joy with the shepherds!  (HM-7)
The shepherds to whom the angelic host appeared had been tending the temple flocks.  The Sadducees had a monopoly on Paschal lambs.  The Sadducees’ flock had more than 600,000 sheep and goats.  They controlled all the pasturage for 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 kilometers) in all directions from Bethlehem.  When a ewe gave birth, a Levitical[74] shepherd inspected the lamb.  If it was a male without blemish both the ewe and the lamb were moved to a separate flock and especially cared for.  The lamb was destined for the Paschal sacrifice in the Temple.  The shepherds, likely all Levites, were sent by the heavenly hosts to the stable in Bethlehem to inspect God’s First Born, Mary’s first born: The Lamb of God!  (HM-8)
Jesus is Mary’s first born, born in a stable used by the Levitical shepherds to protect new born Paschal Lambs from the weather.  He is inspected by the Levitical shepherds and found without blemish!  How else could the Lamb of God be born?  
Mary’s child is born in Bethlehem which means “House of Bread”.  Where else would the Bread of Life be born?  
Jesus is born on the Feast of Emanuel, the Feast of God with us!  When else would He who is God, is now with us, and is even called Emanuel (God with us) by Isaiah (Is 7:14), be born?  
Jesus is conceived and born on the two Jewish celebrations of light.  How else should the “Light of the World” be brought into the world?
The joy experienced by Mary and Joseph at the birth of Jesus, the source of living water, is the exception to the saying in the Talmud: He who has not seen the Water-Drawing Celebration has never seen joy in his life.”[75]
Mary had much to ponder in her heart. (Lk 2:19)   (HM-9)
This gives additional meaning to the words of Jesus to Pilate when He said: “for this I was born” (Jn 18:37).  Jesus was a first born, born in a stable used for the temple flocks to protect the new born lambs, inspected by the Levitical shepherds, found without blemish, and thus set aside from his birth for a Paschal sacrifice: The Lamb of God.  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Nativity

God’s Providence
Mary, how many hundreds of millions of people read the story of the birth of your son and thought: Why was Joseph so late that there was no room in the inn?  Why was there no one, in a culture that valued highly “providing assistance to travelers”, to take you in so that you could have your baby in the warmth and privacy of a home?  God had a plan!  Your son was born in a stable used for the temple flocks to protect new born lambs from the weather. He was inspected by the Levitical shepherds and found without blemish thus marked for sacrifice on Passover as the Lamb of God.  All these things happened by the Providence of God not just for those living when you lived but also for us living 2000 years later.  Luke says you pondered these things in your heart.  Did you see the connections?  I take my life on the surface, based only on what my own senses perceive, one day at a time.  It is inconceivable to me that my life too is part of God’s plan.  My part may be small but it is a part of his plan.  The only requirement is that I love.  Love is action not feeling!  I must reach out to those with whom I come in contact.  When I submit myself to become God’s instrument He will use me in ways that I will only understand after I die.  What a joy to look forward to.
Coincidences?
We see coincidences all the time.  We run into a friend at a store or are thinking of someone and they call.  There is math for that: it is called probability.  What is the probability that if I go into a store I will see someone I know?  That is a fairly high probability, I know a lot of people.  When you combine two independent events: “What is the probability I meet someone in the store I know, who was at Mass this morning?”  The number of possible successful outcomes is now significantly reduced because most of the people I know were not at Mass this morning and I don’t know all the people who were at Mass this morning.  However sometimes the series of coincidences (the number of events) gets to be so long it becomes obvious that this was planned: Linda always stops at the store, on her way home from Mass, to pick up a gallon of milk so she has fresh milk for her kids.  If I meet her at the store after Mass the probability was 100%.  When the probability of accidental happening gets so small and yet it happens that implies that it was planned!  Jesus is the Lamb of God.  Lambs are frequently born in stables.  New born lambs are inspected by Levitical shepherds.  Unblemished lambs are sacrificed.  What is the probability that Jesus would also be born in a stable, inspected by Levitical shepherds, and die on Passover?  Oh, and that He would be known as the Lamb of God and that He would be born on the feast of “God with Us”, the feast of Emanuel, that the Light of the World would be conceived and born on the two celebrations of light, that the Source of living water would be born on the day of the Joyous Water Drawing Ceremony?  It was planned that way!  Help me Lord to see your hand in the coincidences in my life.


Presentation - October 22, 2 BC/Cheshvan 24, 3760
Jesus meets his Father

Our Father
On the 8th day, September 20th, Tishrei 22, Jesus was circumcised at the local synagogue and given the name prescribed to both Mary and Joseph by the angel Gabriel.
      After the Feast of Tabernacles, when the requirement to live in a sukkah ended, Joseph moved his small family into a home where they would be found by the magi (Mt 2:10).  (HM-1)
      When a woman gives birth to her first child, if it is a boy, then he must be redeemed by the father.  The ceremony of redemption of a first born by his father is termed a Pidyon Haben.  It takes place on the 30th day after the birth (for Jesus that would have been: October 12nd, Cheshvan 14th). 
The offering for redemption, five shekels (Nm 18:15-16), is not mentioned in the New Testament but Joseph understood his role as adoptive father and we are told that they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord (Lk 2:39).  (HM-2)
      A woman, who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, is ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as during her monthly period.  Then the woman must wait thirty-three more days to be purified from her bleeding.  She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary (Lev 12:2-4).  The mother does not attend the Pidyon Haben.  At the end of this period of purification the woman was required to make a sacrifice of a year-old lamb for her purification and a turtle dove or pigeon for sin (Lev 12:6).  If she could not afford that, then a sacrifice of two turtle doves could be made (Lev 12:8). [76] (HM-3)
      Mary and Joseph went to the temple to make the required sacrifice for Mary’s purification
(Lk 2:22).  Mary, like any woman who has given birth while the father is away, wanted to take Jesus to his Father, Yahweh.       
As Mary and Joseph entered the temple, after Mary’s purification in one of the many baths located just outside the temple, Simeon approaches (Lk 2:27).  Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah, he takes Jesus into his arms saying: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light of revelation to the gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32).  (HM-4)
Simeon[77] ,[78] follows Mary and Joseph into the temple and is thus present when they introduce Jesus to his Father: “Yahweh, your Son!”  Consider the joy felt by Mary and Joseph as they presented Jesus to his Father.  (HM-5)
Mary also rejoices with Anna, an 84-year-old widow of the tribe of Asher, who recognizes Jesus and goes off telling everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Lk 2:38)
Both Simeon and Anna (Lk 2:36) filled with the Holy Spirit, have recognized not Mary and Joseph but the child and give glory to God!  (HM-6)
Consider the joy Mary felt when strangers exclaimed over her new born.  Even more so, the joy she felt when her child is recognized for being special.  Jesus is recognized as the Messiah even as an infant!  (HM-7)
As they were leaving the Temple Simeon blessed them and said to Mary: “Behold this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many may be revealed” (Lk 2:33-35). 
Mary holds her son close to her heart as she realizes that Simeon’s prophecy will come because of her son.  (HM-8)
Simeon has witnessed what he perceives to be a dedication to temple service.  Mary and Joseph did not make a sacrifice for the redemption of Jesus after presenting him to his Father so from Simeon perspective Jesus, the Messiah, has just been dedicated to the service of God.  Since Mary and Joseph must have forgotten to record the dedication, Simeon was happy to take care of that for them[79]. (HM-9)
Mary[80]  and Samuel[81]  (1Sam 1:28) were presented to God by their parents because they each were God’s answer to a fervent prayer for a child.  They were intentionally dedicated to God’s service in the temple, by their parents, even before conception! 
Both Samuel and Mary, dedicated to the temple, were brought back to the temple to stay when they were weaned (able to live without their mother) but it was not required to bring the male child until he became of age because his dedication was for life.
God initiated Jesus’ conception.  Mary had no intention of dedicating Jesus to the Temple.  Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was to be the Messiah.  They were simply bringing Jesus to his Father.  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Presentation

Joseph and Mary acknowledge the Fatherhood of God
When a woman whose spouse is on military deployment gives birth, the first thing she wants to do is bring their child to his father.  Mary, you were no different.  By law you could not go into the temple for 40 days.  You were an hour away from the temple, but you could not go.  You were completely drawn to God as Gabriel testified.  Now you were holding your son, God’s Son!  Joseph has adopted Jesus at God’s request and he too wants to be with you as you brought to God his own son.  Just from a human perspective it had to be an incredibly joyful moment.  From a spiritual perspective, it was indescribable, even unimaginable!
Joy tempered with sorrow
The presentation was a complex event.  It was at the same time a Joyful Mystery and one of your sorrows.  It filled you with incredible joy to be able to introduce your son to his Father. Your joy was amplified when Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  As a new mother, all praise directed to your son was shared by you.  You were on such an incredible high when, as you were about to leave, Simeon brought you down: “A sword will pierce your soul!”  These were words you immediately recognized to be prophetic.   It made you want to hold your child close to your heart because you knew it meant the sword would come because of your son.  There would be those who would resent, even hate, your son. 
     As Joseph took you by night to Egypt you began to see just how much the world could hate; then you were told about the children in and around Bethlehem who were killed as Herod attempted to kill your son.[82]   Many were children you had met in your brief stay in Bethlehem. They were the children of the mothers with whom you had shared the joys of new motherhood.  Your heart was ripped apart.  You felt all the pain of those 20 mothers.  Your child was safe but theirs were gone!  Lord give me the grace to accept the losses that must come.  Allow me the wisdom and compassion to be able to console those who feel the pain.

Joseph is the Adoptive Father of God’s Son
Joseph was told by the angel to name the baby Yeshua, “Yahweh saves”.  Naming is an adoptive act.  The angel was telling Joseph to adopt Jesus as his own son.  Joseph took Jesus to a Synagogue and made the offering of 5 shekels to redeem Mary’s first born.  Joseph knew that Jesus was conceived by the action of the Holy Spirit and that Jesus would grow up to become the Messiah.  Joseph, you were a carpenter who swore to live a life of celibacy as a prayer to bring the Messiah.  Now your son is God’s son!  What must it have been like to hold God?  To hold him in your arms and rock him to sleep?   He must have fallen when he was learning to walk, and you held him when he cried.  God cried in your arms!  You taught Jesus to be a carpenter.  You taught God!  You learned humility from your son.  So, you chose to always remain in the background.  You chose to love and to serve providing for Mary and Jesus.  Teach me to love as you loved.  Help me to provide for my family. 

Adoration of the Magi - November - December, 2 BC / Kislev to Tevet, 3760
Our Father
We all associate the “3 Kings” with the Nativity; the arrival of the kings is a mystery in the Franciscan Crown rosary.[83]  The magi didn’t arrive until after the presentation. (Mary’s offering was two doves: they had not received any gold). The actual number of magi is unknown. What we know about the Magi is the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which remind us of Isaiah 60:6.  (HM-1)
Their origin was from the East.  It is thought from either Seleucia (Babylon was destroyed in 325 BC and a new capital city, Seleucia, was established 27 miles (43 kilometers) to the North) or possibly Persepolis if Cyrus or Darius had moved the wise men back to Persia. It took 4 months for a large caravan to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem.[84]
      It was 1090 miles (1754 kilometers).  It is 1420 miles (2285 kilometers) from Persepolis to Jerusalem.  A small group on camels would average 25 miles (25 kilometers) a day carrying up to 300 lbs. (136 kg) per camel for a few days.  For a longer trip the average was closer to 18 miles (29 kilometers) a day.  Thus, the trip would have taken a minimum of 72 days from Seleucia and 94 days from Persepolis, allowing for 1 day of rest for every 6 days of travel for the camels and men.  (HM-2) 
Beginning on Tishri 1 (September 11, 3 BC), the Jewish New Year of 3759 and throughout 2 BC, 3760, there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star) they intersected on 9/11/3 BC, 2/6/2 BC, and 5/7/2 BC. The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah).  So, it heavily symbolized a Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah.[85]  (HM-3). 
“Attempts to identify the Christmas star with a planetary conjunction, comet, or supernova are futile.  The protoevangelium of James (21:3), Ephrem the Syrian in his commentary on the Diatessaron, and Chrysostom in his commentary on Matthew all rightly recognize the so-called star does not stay on high but moves as a guide and indeed comes to rest very near the infant Jesus.  Matters become clear when we recall that the ancients generally believed stars to be animate beings, and the Jews, in particular, identified them with angels (Job 38:7).  The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, 7 and Theophylact must be right in identifying the magi’s star with an angel, and one may compare the angelic guide of the Exodus (Ex 23:20, 23; Ex 32:34)[86]
(HM-4)
All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it.[87]
(HM-5)
The wise men were of the group of scholars that was originally formed and led by the prophet Daniel in Babylon.  Daniel left an inheritance for the Messiah and instructed the other scholars in how to determine the date of the Messiahs birth based on the stars (Nm 24:17).  His instructions to them were to pass the task down through the generations of scholars until the appointed time and then to take the inheritance to the new born Messiah.  The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus indicated the time was near.  Leaving for Jerusalem on the first day of the following Jewish new year would have them arriving in Bethlehem in late November or December depending on whether they came from Seleucia or Persepolis and how long they were delayed in Jerusalem.  (HM-6) 
Daniel had been shown the heavens at the time of the Messiah’s birth and told them what to look for in the sky.  Daniel had also been shown the number of years that would pass before the coming of the Messiah.  Armed with the time frame to start looking and what to look for; the Magi found in the sky the formation foretold by Daniel and headed off to Jerusalem as instructed by Daniel[88].
  (HM-7)
The Magi would have arrived in Jerusalem sometime in November or December of 2 BC saying: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”   That they have come to worship the new born king implies that they were worshipers of Yahweh and followers of Daniel.  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet Micah: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Mic 5:2) While in Jerusalem seeking direction from the priests and scribes, Simeon likely told the Magi to ask for Mary and Joseph when they got to Bethlehem.  (HM-8)
         Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared (the first conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus). And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house, they saw the Child with Mary his mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
(Mt 2:1-12)
Herod would have figured out that the Magi weren’t coming back by the end of December.  The triple conjunction began on 9/11/-3.  It was now 12/-2 so if the baby was born on 9/11/-3 he would already be over a year old so to be safe he ordered the death of all boys in and around Bethlehem that were 2 years old and under.[89]
Herod died sometime between the total lunar eclipse on January 10, 1 BC and March 25, 1 BC.  (HM-9) 
God recognized that Mary and Joseph would need money to pay for the trip to and from Egypt as well as to pay for the redemption of Jesus when he was 12.  God provides.   (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Adoration of the Magi

The End from the Beginning and Artistic Contrasts
There are several elements which anticipate the stories end.  Here as there the issue is Jesus’ status as the King of the Jews.  Here as there the Jewish leaders gather against him.  Here as there, plans are laid in secret.  And here as there Jesus’ death is sought.  So, the end is foreshadowed in the beginning.  But there are also artistic contrasts.  Here a light in the night sky proclaims the Messiah’s advent.  There the darkness during the day announces his death.  Here Jesus is worshipped and there He is mocked.  Here it is prophesied that Jesus will shepherd his people Israel; there it is foretold that Jesus, the shepherd, will be struck and his sheep scattered.  Here there is great rejoicing; there we find mourning and grief.[90]
Why would they bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh?
Isaiah speaks of the coming of the light and that Gentiles would come on camels bringing gold and incense.  Both frankincense and myrrh are incense.  Jesus, like Melchizedek, was priest, prophet, and king; and He was both God and man.  Jesus would choose to sacrifice himself for us.  Gold is a gift for a king.  Frankincense is a gift for an offering of a smell pleasing to God.  Myrrh is a gift of an incense used for embalming.  What did Mary and Joseph do with the gifts?  Is that where the money for the redemption of Jesus came?
Why did God provide the celestial symbolism?
Mary, I suspect that you didn’t notice the celestial symbolism.  Yet God so arranged the events that it is obvious that it had to be planned.  It was another thing God did for us living 2000 years later so that we would believe.


Finding in the Temple – April 5th, 12/Nisan 25, 3772
A foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection

Our Father
The Passover Festival in 3772 (12 AD) would have ended on Nisan 22 (a Sabbath) so the caravan from Nazareth would have departed for their return on the 23rd of Nisan.  Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing on that day (April 3rd).  Their return to Jerusalem would have been on the 24th of Nisan (April 4th) and they would have found Jesus on the morning of the 25th of Nisan which is April 5th on the Gregorian Calendar.  The finding in the temple has traditionally been considered a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, it happened on the Gregorian Calendar on the same days as Jesus’ death, April 3rd, and Resurrection, April 5th.  (HM-1)
This mystery is both one of Mary’s sorrows and a Joyful Mystery.  Being one of Mary’s sorrows is an indication of how much Mary and Joseph were hurt because Jesus stayed behind in the Temple.  To hurt one’s parents is a sin and Jesus didn’t commit a sin!  We are missing something!  (HM-2)
When Jesus was introduced to his Father as an infant (at the time of Mary’s Purification); Simeon, a leading Pharisee, recognized Jesus as the Messiah as the family entered the temple.   He saw what he assumed to be Mary presenting Jesus for dedication to temple Service and so Jesus was recorded as dedicated to temple service.  Then, unless He was redeemed, when he became of age, turned 13, he had to stay in the temple just as Samuel stayed in the temple. 
It says in the Torah:  The Lord said to Moses, “speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If anyone vows to give himself or one of his family members to the full service of the Lord, and circumstance changes so that he cannot keep his vow, he shall pay a redemption price to be freed from that vow.  The value of an adult male from twenty to sixty years old is to be set at fifty pieces of silver; for an adult female at thirty pieces of silver; for a young male from five to twenty years at twenty pieces of silver …” (Lev 27:1-5).  (HM-3)
“If anyone making such a vow is too poor to pay the required amount, he must present himself or the other family member to the priest who will make an adjustment of the redemption price according to what the man can afford.” (Lev 27:8).   (HM-4)
Jesus was 12 years old when he stayed behind in the temple (Lk 2:42).   An Israelite boy becomes of age at 13.  The family traveled together each year to Jerusalem for Passover, Nisan 15 (Lk 2:41)
Simeon lived at least until 10 AD[91] and would have remembered Jesus and looked for his coming to the temple each year at Passover.  Simeon would have been looking forward to the day that Jesus would be coming under his care and likely asked Jesus each year, from the time Jesus started his education, if He was staying.  Simeon had explained to Jesus that it had been arranged by his parents when He was presented as an infant, an event that he, Simeon, had personally witnessed.   Simeon may even have shown Jesus where his dedication was recorded.  During each visit, after Jesus had begun his education, Simeon would have spent time with Jesus to observe his progress.  Simeon at some point would have told Jesus that He had to be in residence before He turned 13. If Simeon died in 10 AD Jesus would have last seen Simeon when he was 10.  Now at 12, knowing his family would not return to Jerusalem before his birthday, Jesus had to stay.
 Since his parents had presented him He logically assumed that they planned for him to be dedicated to the Temple and knew that He would need to stay.  (HM-5)
Mary and Joseph had presented Jesus to his Father.  They did not however intend to dedicate him for temple service; but there was no legal distinction. The dedication had been recorded by Simeon.  They needed to redeem Jesus.  When Mary finds Jesus, she says: “Son, why have you done this to us?” (Lk 2:48).  Mary didn’t realize that Simeon had recorded the dedication for her and the corresponding legal implications.   (HM-6)
Jesus responds: “Why were you looking for me?”  He was doing what the law required.  “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).  There was no sin: Jesus could not leave.  What must Mary have thought and felt?  Her son was 12 years old and his family left him; without even saying “Good-by”!  (HM-7)  
At his response, the Holy Spirit opens Mary’s mind, she understands: Mary had been committed to the Temple, so she also knew the requirements for the young men.  Jesus must be redeemed (released from temple service) before He becomes of age or be committed to temple service for life.  Mary presented Jesus, so she had to release him from temple service while she could; before He was responsible for himself!  At the same time, Mary realized the pain she had caused her son by leaving without saying anything.  That hurt more than the pain of his loss.  Mary was sinless but still human.  Neither she nor Joseph checked for Jesus when they left or at any time during the 15 miles (24 kilometers) traveled that day[92].  The devil was delighted when they started out without Jesus. The devil insured continuous distractions throughout the day.  The lesson for us is to not lose sight of Jesus.  (HM-8)
Luke says that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus said to them (Lk 2:50).[93]  Mary and Joseph didn’t comprehend the intensity of the hatred the priests and scribes would have for Jesus.  If they had not redeemed Jesus, the devil would have prompted a priest or scribe to check and they would have found that Jesus was dedicated to the temple as an infant.  Jesus would have been forcibly made into a temple slave.  Remember, we are in the middle of a spiritual battle and the enemy, the devil, knows far more than we do.  Our only recourse is to stay close to Jesus.  Jesus was doing both what the law required and what was necessary in God’s plan.  (HM-9)
Mary and Joseph are overjoyed that they have their son back and that He will remain with them.
It is apparent that Jesus did not use his divinity, or He would have known that Mary wasn’t aware.  Jesus was totally focused on his humanity.  Jesus was like us in everything but sin (Heb 2:17).  That means he had to go to school to learn and needed to study.  He grew up as a normal (although exceptional) Jewish child, adolescent, and young man.  Jesus obtained knowledge by studying; beginning as was custom at age 4 and continuing his education through a formal program of study to become a rabbi, until, at age 30 He was given “authority”.  Authority meant that he could make new interpretations of scripture.  The scribes could only read existing interpretations.  All rabbis also learned a trade.  Jesus was a carpenter, taught by Joseph.  Jesus followed the law.  He would have completed all the requirements to make new interpretations of scripture.  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)     

Reflections on the Finding in the Temple

Jesus did not use his divinity.
If Jesus had used his divinity, He would have known that Mary and Joseph were not aware of the requirement for Jesus to remain in the temple.  Knowing and allowing them to be hurt as they were, would be sinful.  Scripture tells us Jesus was like us in everything but sin.  Jesus did work miracles but so have many saints.  Jesus did raise the dead but so did Elisha and Peter.  Jesus knew the hearts of people but so did Padre Pio (he wouldn’t absolve a woman until she confessed having an abortion). Both Padre Pio and Jesus’ mom bi-located, Jesus didn’t do that, but He did say you will do still more than I have done.  Mary, while I am afraid of anything miraculous because of my own ego, I believe in miracles and still petition you and your son to intervene in the lives of us still on earth.
There is a spiritual battle going on.
Mary, you were only 27 when you were confronted with the realization that your son was missing.  You checked with all your neighbors and discovered that Jesus and not been with the caravan at all.  He was still in Jerusalem.  The wait until daybreak to begin the trip back to Jerusalem was horrible.  That next day ended in frustration.  You were back in Jerusalem and had checked with all your relatives and friends where Jesus might have gone and it is nightfall again.  Once again you must wait until morning.  I know you were praying for your son.  Praying that you would find him safe.  Did you begin to suspect that the spiritual battle had begun again?  The devil had struck another blow: distracting you throughout the first day’s journey.
When you found Jesus and asked him why He had done this you were stunned by his answer: “Why were you looking for me?  Didn’t you know that I must be in my father’s house.”  Suddenly you realize Jesus must be redeemed!  But you know you never intended to dedicate Jesus to temple service.  Yet you must redeem Jesus since you presented him!  At that point, you probably realized you were once again in the middle of a “God thing” although you can’t see the whole picture: the foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as preventing a future move by Satan to hinder Jesus’ mission.  You are grateful that the solution is simple: redeem Jesus and you can go home.  Mary help me to see the things that I don’t understand as just that: “God things”.  Help me to trust as you did, that God is in control and that He directs events according to a picture beyond my ability to see.  Did you wonder if this was the sword that Simeon was referring to?  I’ll bet you knew in your heart this was not it.
In the presentation joy is followed by sorrow and now sorrow is followed by joy.
The Presentation and the Finding in the Temple are both Joyful Mysteries and one of your Seven Sorrows.
      The Presentation was joyful until Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce your soul: joy followed by sorrow and now the Finding in the Temple is intense sorrow followed by intense joy. Jesus is found safe and will return home. My life is like that too. There is both joy and sorrow. Thank you for the joy, thank you for sharing the joy with me. Help me through the sorrows that must also come. Sorrow is always associated with loss and nothing in this life except love will last. All though even love can be rejected which brings sorrow. Give me the courage to love without worry about rejection.


There is only one life. It will soon be past. Only what’s done for love will last.
FOOTNOTES:

[1] Tiberius Caesar did not become emperor until September 17th even though Augustus died on August 19, 14 AD. See: Tiberius roman emperor at http://Britannica.com
[2] There is some controversy over whether the weeks of the leap year were common weeks.  That cannot be the case as to travel just from Nazareth to Jerusalem took 6 days so priests living away from Jerusalem would be en route when the designated priest examined the barley to see if it was a leap year.  That would then imply that either the traveling priest had to return home or stay in Jerusalem for a month which is not logical. 
[5] Gemara Suka 55b-56a seems to imply that the priests assigned that week continued to serve and would complete their normal rotation in spite of the additional priests.  It makes no difference as there were 216 common weeks between Av of 70 AD and Tammuz of 3 BC.  That is exactly 9 rotations: oh, what a coincidence!
[6] Talmud Mishnah (b. Ta?an 29a).  Av 9 fell on Saturday, August 4th in 70 AD
[7] Josephus Wars 6.4.5
[9] Bethlehem was a town of about 400 people.  It was, at that time, the center for sheep production for the priests in the temple.  It had a caravansary which is an inn with a walled in courtyard.  The courtyard was used to protect pack animals and their owner’s property from wild animals and thieves.  Poor people slept on the ground inside the courtyard with the pack animals while the wealthy slept in the inn.  For the inn to be full means there had to be a very large celebration going on in Jerusalem which was 5 miles away.  Travelers to Jerusalem would have stayed there if they expected the inns in Jerusalem to be full.  There was nothing but sheep to attract people to stay in Bethlehem, but Jerusalem was only an hour away.
[11] http://www.jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/illumination-of-the-temple-ceremony.html
[12] Which celebration of light was greater:  The 8 candles on every menorah in 2 million homes throughout the world or 4 75ft, (23m) menorahs each fueled by a barrel of oil with wicks made of rolled up priestly garments?  Jesus’ birth required the public manifestation while the incarnation was the more significant event (my opinion).
[14] Antiquities’ of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 16, Chapter 9:3
[15] Herod’s sons were king in name only.  Herod retained his power and his sons the title
[16] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book17 Chapter 7
[18] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 17 Chapter 8
[19] Antiquities of the Jews Book 14 Chapter 16
[21] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 17 Chapter 6 verse 4
[22]http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LE-0099-0000.html : 04821 0000 Jan 10 02:04:40 (note: NASA uses a year 0 in the eclipse list but since there was no year 0 that year is actually 1 BC.) (note: NASA uses a year 0 in the eclipse list but since there was no year 0 that year is actually 1 BC.) href="http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/5MCLEmap/-0099-0000/LE0000-01-10T.gif"
[23] Arthur Eedle, Seven Steps to Bethlehem page 81 and http://www.torahtimes.org/writings/roman-governors-of-syria/article.html
[25] Author Eedle Seven Steps to Bethlehem p77-79
[26] In the Hebrew Calendar Tevet 2, 3759 is the 8th day of Chanukah. Chanukah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple after it had been profaned in 139 BC. The Israelites began the annual celebration of Chanukah the following year in 138 BC.
[27] Proto Evangelium of James.   chapter 5ff;
[29] According to church Fathers, such as St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine, Mary had previously taken a vow of lifelong celibacy. Ignatius Study Bible, Luke 1:34 commentary
[30] Mary took a vow of celibacy, so she did not expect to be the mother of the Messiah.  She was trained in the temple in weaving and sewing.  As a celibate maid so trained, she would have expected to earn her own livelihood as a handmaid.  Having dedicated her life to the coming of the Messiah her highest aspiration would have been to be the handmaid of the Mother of the Messiah.
[31] Tradition has it that Mary wove the tunic without seam worn by Jesus to his death.  It is also tradition that Mary sewed the strip of cloth that was cut from the shroud back onto the shroud after the resurrection.  Children serving in the temple were taught skills that were required in support of temple functions including weaving and sewing.  Specifically, the priests offering sacrifice were required to wear a tunic woven without seam.
[32] An uncommitted young woman at that time was essentially the property of her designated guardian.  A woman could not make a vow without her spouse, father, or guardian’s consent.  If Mary had not been betrothed and her father (who was older) died, Mary could be given in marriage despite her wish to remain celibate (Num 30:3-5).  This would typically be done to relieve the guardian of the cost of supporting her.
[33] A woman who was menstruating was unclean by virtue of the bleeding.  So only a young girl or a woman who has gone through menopause could live in the temple.
[34] If Joseph had already lived in Nazareth he would not have been known to the priests. Thus, he likely would not be considered as a candidate to be betrothed to Mary.  If you are picking someone to remain celibate it is better to pick someone who you know has demonstrated the desire and willingness to remain so.
[38] Protoevangelium of James (11): "And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, thou who hast received grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women! And she looked around, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher”
[39] Ignatius Study Bible Luke 1:28 commentary
[40] The name Jesus is the Latin form of the GreekIesous”, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word “Yeshua“.  Yeshua means “Yahweh saves.” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08374x.htm
[41] Mary statement leaves no room for a future relationship with a man: she is under a vow of celibacy.
[42] Isaiah 7:10-14 The LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”  But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.” He [Isaiah] said, “Listen now, house of David. Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The word for virgin here is "almah" and the rabbis, as well as many translations from the original Hebrew, say that does not mean virgin but young girl. They say the Hebrew word for virgin is "betulah"But  אלמה "almah" can refer to a literal virgin as we see in the story of Rebekkah at the well:
Genesis 24:43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin אלמה,“almah,” cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink. Etymologically, the meaning of the word "almah" is derived from the verb meaning "to hide," or "to conceal“ as a womb conceals a child. Other aspects of the almah's "hiddenness" is that the term "almah" is never applied to a married woman.  And "betulah" doesn’t always refer only to literal virgins but could also mean a young woman who is married as we see here:
Joel 1:8 Lament like a virgin, בתולה", betulah" girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
When the Septuagint was written by the 72 elders of Israel (six from each tribe) all the writers specifically chose the Greek word "parthenos," for virgin. This clearly demonstrates the common Jewish understanding of this passage at that time. There is no doubt that Jewish leaders looked at this passage as a messianic passage with the expectation of some type of supernatural birth. Also in Isaiah 9:6,7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. 
In the dead sea scrolls there was found an anomaly: the letter מ "mem" is only closed at the end of a word but the word here for increase the ם "mem" is closed when it should not be: לםרבה instead of an open mem as here: מ Mem” means water in Hebrew and they say an open mem is an open womb and a closed mem represents a barren womb.  The rabbis teach that when it is time for the Redemption, the closed mem of Isaiah’s l’marbeh will open for the coming of the Messiah (Radak, Isa. 9:6).
[43] The Jews didn’t lose the ability to enforce the Levitical Law until 6 AD so stoning for adultery was still enforced.
[44] Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo: Surrender Novena Day -2
[45] That Mary said “Yes” was important but when you look at the mysteries from Mary’s perspective to say “no” would make her whole life a lie.
[46] Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives, Kindle edition (loc 488-501) by Pope Emeritus Benedict
[47] Elizabeth was a “relative”, either an aunt or an older cousin. Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, a Levite (a priest) and Luke indicates that Elizabeth was also descendant of Aaron, a levite (Lk 1:5).   Mary’s father was of the house of Judah.  Thus It is likely that Elizabeth was related to Mary through her mother, Ann.
[48] The route taken was likely Nazareth to the Kings road just east of Caesarea then south on the kings road to the first turn toward Jerusalem just south of Lydda.  That route was paved most of the way and over flatter terrain as well as slightly shorter than going up toward the Sea of Galilee and then south along the Jordan river road or easier than going overland straight to the Jordan river and then south.
[49]When she says “All generations will call me blessed,” the Greek actually says “All generations will call me ” ΜΑΚΑΡΙΟΥΣΙΝ [(makariousin) bless’d: meaning happy or fortunate] as opposed to “All generations will call me ΕϒΛΟΓΗΜΕΝΟΣ ” [(eulogEmenE) bles-sed: meaning holy].   Unfortunately, English makes it difficult to distinguish when both English words have the same spelling but different meanings and it has just been used with the other meaning (Blessed - ΕϒΛΟΓΗΜΕΝΟΣ ” [(eulogEmenE) bles-sed: meaning holy) is the fruit of your womb.
[51] The Hebrew / Gregorian calendar, for the years from 3 BC through 1 BC, are in this document at this link.
[52] Elizabeth was not due until April 9th and it was only March 22nd.  Luke says that Mary stayed with Elizabeth about 3 months (Lk 1:56).  If Elizabeth had gone full term Mary would have stayed over 4 months and it makes no sense to consider that Mary would have left Elizabeth when Elizabeth was in her 9th month.
[53] Passover was a Sabbath regardless of the day of the week on which it fell.  Therefore, Joseph would have stayed the night since he could not travel more than 2000 cubits (about a 1000 yards, 914 meters) on a Sabbath.
[54] The Great Sanhedrin met daily in Jerusalem and he was going to be in Jerusalem for at least a week.  At that time a man could obtain a divorce for any reason by just submitting the writ of divorce to the Sanhedrin.
[56] Yizkor is a memorial service (one of three each year) held for all those who have recently died. It is possible that the caravan from Nazareth would be delayed a day if several wanted to stay for the memorial service.
[57] Mary would have arrived at Elizabeth’s home on or about Dec 16 and would have left on March 19th with Elizabeth and Zechariah for the Passover celebration in Jerusalem.  Thus, Mary remained about 3 months.
[58] Oxford Bible Commentary Edited by John Barton and John Muddiman, Lk 1:59-80  p928
[59] Mary had to have been there for the memory of the words of Zechariah to have been preserved.
[60] They did not return to Nazareth after Mary’s Purification and were found in Bethlehem by the Magi. 
[61] Pure speculation on my part: the Holy Family likely went to Alexandria, Egypt.  It was on a trade route.  There were frequent caravans moving between Jerusalem and Alexandria and there had been a thriving Israelite community there for over 300 years, and thus would have provided Joseph an opportunity to earn a living.   It was in Alexandria that seventy Hebrew scholars created the Septuagint, the first translation of the old testament books into Greek.
[62] The Romans levied a poll tax that taxed every individual (taxing the poor as well as the rich) and a land-tax that was paid only by property owners. Every 14 years the Romans levied the land tax and the poll tax was levied half way between the land taxations.   William Thomas Arnold, The Roman System of Provincial Administration to the Accession of Constantine the Great page 172
[63]It has now been established that Quirinius served as governor two times the first from 3 to 1 BC and the 2nd from 6 to 9 AD.
[64] The water drawing ceremony was performed at all three convocations.  http://www.jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/illumination-of-the-temple-ceremony.html
[66] The rock was Jesus (1Cor 10:4) and that is why Moses was punished for striking the rock twice. (Nm 20:11)
[67] A caravan can only travel at the speed of the slowest traveler.  Even today caravans in Pakistan traveling on foot typically cover 15 miles (24 km) per day: Fr Greg Rice missionary
[68] Although they were poor, Joseph had to have brought his tools and even with what little they possessed it could not be carried.  As a carpenter Joseph would have had to travel to find and harvest the wood he would be using.  That required a donkey cart. That they were moving can be seen from the fact that they were still in Bethlehem when they were found by the Magi sometime after the presentation of Jesus which was 40 days after his birth.
[69] Joseph had only been in Nazareth for 3 years.  He likely had property in Bethlehem and maybe even a house.  Joseph traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost 50 days after Passover.  Knowing he would be relocating to Bethlehem he likely made arrangements for the relocation at that time.
[70] Texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.yuku.com/topic/904/travelguidelines-for-man-and-beast#.Viuz0mt5mK1
[71] The choice to stay in the caravansary was probably based on the fact they wanted security for all their possessions, without imposing on family, while Joseph prepared their new home.  The stable was big enough to also house the donkey and their belongings as was the caravansary courtyard.
[72] The Sadducees, the priestly family, controlled all the pasture lands around Bethlehem.  It was only September so the flocks would remain in the surrounding pastures until winter set in so they would not consume the vegetation near the city until the weather turned cold. New born lambs were vulnerable to the weather for two weeks.
[73] The shepherds likely did not leave right away as it was the Sabbath.  They would have remained with the sheep until relieved the following day.  They would have had no trouble finding the Holy Family as the requirement to remain in a sukkah was an 8 day requirement.
[74] Only a Levite could make the determination that a lamb was unblemished
[75] Talmud, sukkah 53
[76] Simeon Ben Hillel was known for providing the two turtle doves required for the purification out of his own pocket when a woman came to the temple for purification and did not have the money for the doves.  That Simeon encountered Mary and Joseph may not have been an accidental encounter.  He may have been pointed out to Mary and Joseph as a source of funds for Mary’s purification.
[77] Journal of Bible and Religion Vol. 34, No. 1, Jan., 1966 Does the Simeon of Luke 2 Refer to Simeon the Son of Hillel www.jstor.org/stable/1460564 A Cutler - 1966 "Simeon and Hillel's son without any kind of surname (patronymic or other) ...
[78] www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7698-Hillel. Simeon was likely Simeon Ben Hillel the grandfather of Gamaliel. Simeon lived 120 years, dying in 10 AD. He was noted for both believing in the eminent arrival of the Messiah and teaching the requirement for love of God and neighbor.
[79] Jesus assumed his mother knew that He had to stay in the temple.  The only reason He would have had to stay was because He was recorded as dedicated to Temple service.  Mary would not have forgotten such a dedication, so when she brought her son to the temple to meet his Father, she had no intention of dedicating Jesus to Temple service.  Someone else must have recorded the dedication.  Simeon became the head of the Sanhedrin in 9 AD when his father died.  Not knowing the relationship between Jesus and his Father, Simeon is the likely candidate for having mistaken Jesus introduction to his Father for a dedication to temple service.
[80] Proto Evangelium of James.  Joachim chapter 1; Anna chapters 3 & 4
[81] New Jerusalem Bible Luke 2:22 commentary; Navarre Bible, Pentateuch commentary Lev 27:1-34 page 514
[82] The population of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus was about 400.  There were an additional 200 people living in the vicinity of Bethlehem.  One half were female so there were about 300 males.  Half the population is typically below the age of twenty so the average number of children would have been 7.5 per year of age.  Thus, there would have been about 20 babies 2 years old and under slaughtered at Herod’s command.  The sign in the heavens seen by the magi began in September of 3 BC and continued until June of 2 BC.  So if the sign implied the newborn king was born in September of 3BC he could already be 15 months old.  Herod would rather error on the side of caution so he ordered all males 2 and under to be killed.
[83] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscan_Crown The Franciscan Crown Rosary Mysteries are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus, the Adoration of the Magi, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, the Resurrection, and the Assumption.
[84] http://www.southportpc.org/old_pdf/ezra_nehemiah04.pdf
[85] http://BethlehemStar.net (caution this site also talks about the sign of the virgin in the heavens which by definition could not be seen since the constellation is clothed with the sun.)
[86] The Oxford Bible Commentary Edited by John Barton and John Muddiman: Matthew 3 p849
[88] In my humble opinion all the symbolism of the Star of Bethlehem, and the events of the birth of the Lamb of God as well as the symbolism and physical evidence remaining from the crucifixion were lost on those living during Jesus’ lifetime.  Those things were from the beginning directed to those of us living today that we would be able to see the Hand of God in the events of the past.
[89] Population of Bethlehem was about 400 and the population of surrounding area an additional 200.  One half were female so there were 300 males. One half were under 20 so 150 or 7.5 per year.  Thus about 15 baby boys were killed.  Mary would have met many of the mothers in her brief time in Bethlehem.  Think of pain she felt upon learning of their loss.
[90] The Oxford Bible Commentary Edited by John Barton and John Muddiman: Matthew 3 p849
[91] There is a question as to the date Simeon died the genealogical records indicate that he may have lived until 20 AD.  https://www.geni.com/people/Rabbi-Simeon-ben-Hillel-HaNasi/6000000001288296458#/tab/overview
[92] Even today caravans in Pakistan traveling on foot typically cover 15 miles (24 km) per day: Fr Greg Rice missionary
[93] This narrative is the only explanation as to why Luke calls Mary’s purification, the Presentation of Jesus.  It was a Presentation of Jesus but not one intended by Mary or Joseph.  When Mary told the story to Luke, she with 20x20 hindsight would have realized it was Jesus’ Presentation but Jesus had already been redeemed as a first born by Joseph 10 days before.

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