I told you I would share a final, special, quote regarding my Word of the Year for 2014. Here it is. I thought this was an amazing way to sum up all I had been learning about this word — Presence — throughout the year. Oddly, it was right on the front page of the Jackson Hole Daily. I always seem to find my “Word” quotes in the most unexpected places, as God speaks to me daily (no pun intended). This was a Christmas devotional from one of the local pastors, and it was filled with my word, “presence,” although with a very interesting twist:
The Gift of Christmas Presence
If you’re like me, you’ve probably done some shopping lately in order to buy presents for your loved ones. I enjoy walking around Town Square and shopping at our local stores. The lights and the festive decor are just what I need to put me in the Christmas spirit.
Like many of you, I often stop and wonder why we are so busy at Christmastime. Many of us are worn out and broke by the time New Year’s arrives. While I enjoy giving and receiving presents, I know there is something more to Christmas than maxing out credit cards, eating too many sweets, drinking too much eggnog and acquiring a bunch of stuff. Quite honestly I don’t remember most of my past Christmas presents, but I definitely remember the treasured time I’ve spent with loved ones during the holidays. As I get older I seem to want more time and fewer things. I want quality time with loved ones, not the newest iPhone or gadget. I want the gift of Christmas presence, not Christmas presents.
The good news of the Christmas story is summed up in the word Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” It’s the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was God present with us. John, one of the men who walked and talked with Jesus, testified that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelt among us. Eugene Peterson paraphrased this by saying, “God moved into the neighborhood.” We received the gift of God’s presence in Jesus. God loved the world so much that the Lord came to dwell among us to shower us with His grace and to teach us how to live and love. Even more, we are all invited to be with Jesus in God’s presence for eternity.
As a follower of Christ, I am challenged to walk in His footsteps by practicing the ministry of presence with others. I am called to step out of my comfort zone and remind people that God loves them by spending time with them. I believe the world needs God’s presence working in and through ordinary people like you and me.
Now that you are done Christmas shopping, I have something else for you to consider: Who needs the gift of your presence right now? How will you give the gift of God’s love by being present with others this holiday season and on into 2015?
[Rev. Ben Pascal, senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, WY, Jackson Hole Daily, 12/24/14]