The feast of the Presentation of the Lord is always celebrated on February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas. While Christmas may seem like a distant memory, this feast day asks us to take one last long look in our rearview mirror at the mystery of the Incarnation before we begin our journey into Lent.
When we recall many of the beautiful Christmas scripture stories it seems that most people were unprepared for his coming. The Scribes weren’t ready, even though they knew where he was to be born. The rich and powerful of Bethlehem didn’t seem to have paid much attention to the young couple from Nazareth. Rulers of the world never knew he was born and the majority of people never knew he lived or died. By the standards of the world, his birth was just a blip on the radar, a peasant child born to peasant parents during a silent night, without ruckus or fuss, the way most babies are born, into a world that pays little attention. In China and India, no one knew a thing.
But that’s not the whole story. Luke tells us the story of an old man named Simeon. 40 days had passed since Jesus was born and he knew nothing about it. He was a bit player in the story of our salvation and when his part is over, we never hear from him again. But God made a promise to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Now an old man, he must have asked himself a million times, “Is this the one? Should I be looking for a baby or perhaps a teenager or strong young man”? Each day the answer came back, “no, that’s not the one. Keep looking. Keep watching. Keep waiting.”
So, into the Temple comes poor little Mary and Joe with their 40-day old baby boy. If you were a people watcher, you could tell they were not from the upper-crust of society and probably wouldn’t have given them a second thought. But like he has done so many times before, Simeon again asks, “Is this the one?” And he is stunned to hear the answer, “YES”.
You can just imagine old man Simeon dashing through the crowd to get to Mary and Joseph to ask if he can hold their baby. Astounded that he is actually holding the salvation of the world in his hands, the great promise of the prophets, Simeon breaks into his beautiful song of praise that has come down to us through the centuries as the climatic song of Christmas. Simeon’s long watching and waiting is over. He is now ready to surrender his life back to God and to die in peace. He won’t see the Lord grow up. He won’t see all the great miracles; he won’t see Jesus walking on water or feeding the 5,000 or raise the dead. Simeon will be long gone before Jesus stands in front of Pilate. He has no idea about the crucifixion or the resurrection. It doesn’t matter that he won’t see the end. He has seen the beginning and that is enough.
So here we are, 40 days past our Christmas celebrations, we are presented with the question, “Did the birth of Jesus make any real difference in our lives this year or is it now just fading into a tiny blip on our radar screen?”
Waiting and watching to see the face of the Messiah in our lives can be difficult if we forget to ask, “Is this the one?” Like Simeon, no one can ever come face to face with Jesus and be the same. So, if we haven’t quite got the Christmas story right this year, we still have time. It’s never too late to be amazed and astounded by the Incarnation right there in front of our faces.