presence – the fact or condition of being present

The Miracle of Presence

The young woman trembled as she told her life’s story.  Her family was affluent and was by all accounts, “normal”.  Her mother took care of things at home, her father worked hard at his career.  In his time away from the office, however, he played golf.  Saturdays meant golf for dad.  Sundays meant more golf for dad, and fewer and fewer church days for the rest of the family.  Birthdays and holidays meant more golf for dad.  When it was mentioned to dad he was missed and wanted on the family days, he just bought another expensive and increasingly meaningless gift.  By the end of the story, the young woman was in tears.  “We just wanted him to spend time with us, that’s all.  I don’t know if he ever realized how much we wanted him there.”

To be wanted by someone is a gift to you.  To be present for that someone is your gift to them.  I’m not sure why, but sometimes we humans have a difficult time learning the best gift is just being present.  I see parents avoiding their children all the time, doing anything to keep from spending time with them.  It makes me sad.  It’s a pattern that has been around a long time.  Children don’t want a present from their mom or dad nearly as much as they want their mom or dad’s attention and love.  In the case of the absentee father above, gifts were never the same as presence.

The one who understands this better than anyone is God.  It was God who recognized how much the world needed Presence.  In Jesus Christ, God became Presence.  Big-time.  The world needed a savior, a saving, guiding Presence.  God became human, incarnate in the baby, Jesus.  Rather than send something or someone else, God sent the gift of Himself. 

If you have ever wished for a parent to be present for you, and you know how much you appreciated it when they were present for you, then you begin to understand how we humans should feel about Christmas.  God’s love for us was so great that he gave us the gift of Presence.  God didn’t send a material blessing or lottery ticket.  God didn’t give us three wishes.  God gave us what we really needed, and I’m pretty sure what we all want.  Presence.  The gift that keeps on giving.  It began on the first Christmas, and continues today.  Still.  Presence. 

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 

Go ahead.  Look in the manger.  See?  Presence.


Rev. Tom Stephenson

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