December 12, 2009

Christmas Presents or Presence

"You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your Presence."
Acts 2:28

When I was a child the weeks before Christmas were very exciting. Our house was decorated beautifully and smelled of freshly baked cookies. We spent time with family and friends and, of course, participated in the yearly Christmas program. Then, on Christmas Eve, we were almost sick with excitement (and a few too many cookies) as we waited for Christmas day.

Bedtime would come and my parents would hurry us off to bed reminding us that we needed to go to sleep so that Santa could visit. After all he only traveled at night and if he did not come we would not have any gifts to open. We would try to stay awake just to hear or catch a glimpse of this jolly old man; who somehow managed to keep all the children of the world’s addresses and requests straight and deliver everything in one night.

Of course, we always fell asleep and never did see anything or anyone. All we knew was that when we went to bed there was nothing under the tree. When we woke up there were presents everywhere. What fun we had opening them to discover the things we had requested in our letters to Santa.

As the years past we obviously discovered  that Santa was a figment of our imagination but still found the holiday season to be delightful. We began a tradition of opening one "special" present on Christmas Eve. We waited all day in anticipation of that moment. The excitement made me queasy every year for as long as I can remember.

More time passed and my siblings and I got married and had children. We began to find great joy in the thought that "Christmas is for kids." In keeping with that we felt much joy in the responses that came from the children to the gifts we had chosen for them.

Eventually my husband, son, and I moved away from family. We made trips back at Christmas. It seemed that our focus changed again from Christmas presents to being in the presence of those we loved. I look back on our Christmas trips. They were very special times. We made sure that the children had presents, and we gave gifts that were tokens of our love, but spending time with our loved ones celebrating the birth of Jesus was a priceless gift to us.

Over a decade ago, illness began to plague me, and we were blessed to have my parents come to live near us. We no longer made long journeys to Michigan, and our son enjoyed having Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home. We never tried to sell him on Santa Claus and have tried to instill in him the real meaning of the season. He's now almost 20 years old. Needless to say our focus is changing again.

Upon reflection I no longer feel the anticipation that I once felt about the holidays. I cannot do many of the things I once did—things that I thought made Christmas special. Our son is grown and no longer views things as a child. My view of the season is transforming again.

My husband and I aren't exchanging gifts this year. The things that I desire cannot be purchased with money. I am content with what I have, materially speaking, and the only thing that I desire is that sense of wonder and awe I felt as a child—not for Santa—but for My Heavenly Father.

When you think about it, in some ways He parallels Santa. He knows all of His children by name. He knows the desires of our hearts and has the ability to visit each of us simultaneously. However unlike Santa He does not leave gifts that are perishable. And, if we will look for Him, we will see Him, and along with that find a gift that is priceless. His Presence in our midst.

You might ask why God’s Presence is so important. Well, the Bible says that, in His Presence is fullness of joy, in His Presence there is rest, peace of mind, hope, and renewal. Most of all, in His Presence is a love deeper than even the deep love of family and friends. I guess you can see why I have stopped asking for Christmas presents and now ask for Christ's presence instead.

Perhaps you feel less than enthralled with Christmas this year. You may be weary, worn or hurting deep inside. The pile of presents may be bought & wrapped or a list composed to purchase but you find no joy, peace, hope, or love.

I recommend that you shift your focus from those tangible presents to God’s Presence—which He has promised to you even now. According to His Word He will not withhold any good thing from you. That includes His Presence in your life which, by the way,  is the best gift you will ever receive.


Marsha said...

ThanK you for sharing and reminding me HIS presence is really the only thing that truly satisfies!! Merry Christmas!!

Anonymous said...

hmmm I know what you mean.
The grandkids are older (16/19) and I'm too exhausted to decorate.
This year I hope to just enjoy a day off with my dogs, and hopefully spend some time with my stepdaughter and grand kids.

Encouragement for Today said...

Amen. You know Rev, for the first time, I can honestly say I am looking forward to Christmas. When I look back over the last few I see that I have grown spiritually I guess and a lot of hurt has been healed from my life. Dont know why it affects people that way but it often does. And even those in families etc. - for some reason this time of year can be the lonliest - people seem to be extra sensitive at Christmas. Maybe it is that spiritual connotation that it holds - even for those who dont know God. I guess both believer and unbeliever alike sense the true message of Christmas even if those who say they dont believe admit it or not. Something in our hearts craves God at a deep and often unknown level I guess. Anyhow, Rev, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas this year and a great and prosperous New Year ahead! May 2010 be a year of great change and growth! In His Name,
Luv Jules xxx

Sandra Heska King said...

Beautiful! Thinking how His Presence cannot be boxed and bowed. New and different every day!

bridgetwillard said...

hmmm I know what you mean.
The grandkids are older (16/19) and I'm too exhausted to decorate.
This year I hope to just enjoy a day off with my dogs, and hopefully spend some time with my stepdaughter and grand kids.

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