Presents or Presence?

At this time of the year, sorting out presents for Christmas needs some consideration. I have to say that I like presents, giving and receiving, but I seem to have an issue that when I buy a present for someone, in the back of my mind there is always this feeling of ‘Is it enough? Maybe I need to add to the gift, which means I usually spend more than intended.

My mum had a challenging perspective on gifts. She loved giving and hated receiving gifts. She would have no problems after opening a present to say “What am I supposed to do with that? I don’t want it, take it back.” which I learnt to do graciously. I certainly knew if she liked the gift as it wasn’t returned.

There is another present which is with us all the time but which we seem to ignore way too much.  It’s a present which is always enough, extravagantly enough, and that is God’s presence in and with us.

God loves me with no conditions and sees me as precious, and amazing and accepts me for who and how I am.  I have to be honest and say, that from a personal perspective, it’s just a bit much to believe most of the time, because a lot of time I’m not so lovable. BUT that’s not even a problem as God says… “No worries, I’m always here, even when you ignore me, ‘cos I love you…no matter what!’

For those of us like me who have trouble with the concept of God’s unconditional love, God gets personal, relational. While God has always been present in creation, God chooses to be vulnerable and come to us through Jesus, in a little backwater town, into very ‘interesting’ family circumstances. As for the actual birth, a cartoon I read recently said this: “Jesus was born in a stable to prepare him for all the bullsh…t’ he had to deal with”. Look beyond the humor as it’s so important. God showed, through Jesus that God gets it. The reality of what we have to sometimes deal with melts away when we see the ‘bullsh…t’ which Jesus endured. Why? To show us what love looks like.

So how do we fully appreciate the best present anyone could get? I would suggest that we need to find whatever practice enables us to be ‘present’ to God where-ever that may be for you, in a sacred place, journaling, in nature, reading sacred texts, listening to podcasts or music, meditating, just being still. It could also mean being ‘present’ with the people around you, truly present, and yes maybe even those family members you might NOT choose to be with! You may just see the presence of God in them or they see God in you.

It’s time (almost) to disconnect our devices and engagement with our work and to be present with our family and friends and maybe people we are yet to meet. Most importantly to be present to God’s presence, God’s love for us, for all of us, through Jesus Christ, the best present.

Matthew 1: 23 (MSG) “ Watch for this – a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).


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