The Christmas decorations have long since been put away and the commercial world has already peaked for Valentine’s day. Nevertheless, you may be surprised to know that, until very recently, today’s feast, the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, was the Church’s formal closing of the Christmas season. Moreover, the story in today’s gospel – Mary and Joseph bringing their baby to the temple in accordance with the law – is itself the climax and conclusion of St. Luke’s entire Christmas story, as Simeon proclaims the baby Jesus “a light of revelation to the gentiles and the glory” of His people, Israel, We might today read that story whole (running from Luke 1:5 through 2:39) and allow ourselves both to marvel at its unity and inner-connectedness and to be challenged by what those verses call us to be and to do.
Every encounter with the Gospel is a challenge and a call for a decision. This story is no exception. It is our privilege and our duty as Christians to proclaim God’s salvation – by deed and word – being mindful of the response we will evoke, and remembering that the crib of Bethlehem lies in the shadow of the cross at Calvary.
(Adapted from Robert P. Heaney)