Why I'm focusing on presence, not presents, this Christmas
My ‘to do’ list is always too long. During the Christmas season, that can mean stress vs joy, burden vs blessing. In our culture, it’s nearly impossible not to get wrapped up, figuratively and literally, in the busyness of the season with family gatherings, parties, shopping and Christmas programs. If we aren’t careful and intentional, Christmas can get to be more about the material gifts we are giving or getting than the heavenly gift of Christ, the one whom Christmas is truly about.
When I was little, I could hardly contain myself until we could tear into the presents under the tree at Christmas! As I grew older and the presents under the tree were fewer, and to be honest, Christmas was less exciting. That changed of course when I had kids and got to experience the wonders of Christmas through their eyes. Note that I said wonders, not meaning. I always thought of Christmas as a time to get or give gifts. I knew the churches thought it was a time to celebrate Jesus, but that wasn’t my realm of understanding as a child or later when I became an atheist.
When Armond and Ambrosia were little and I was a single mom, Christmas brought extreme financial burden and stress from the things I thought needed to be in place to have a good Christmas. The tree needed to be bursting with gifts and cards for Armond and Ambrosia, every relative and friend, the kids’ friends, every teacher, the garbage collector, the mail carrier, the newspaper carrier, the neighbors, the dog, the neighbor’s dog, and so on, despite needing to use my credit cards to buy them. The house was decorated to the extreme, so it was a place of awe to the kids. The days before Christmas were spent wrapping gifts for hours and hours. By the time Christmas came, I was exhausted, broke and glad it was over. And while the kids loved the gifts, Christmas was really just about presents.
When I became a Christian, I realized Christmas wasn’t about a pile of gifts, decorations, cards and activities. Christmas is about Jesus, and the love and blessings that come from His presence, not presents. As the years passed, the way we prepare for and celebrate Christmas has evolved. There’s less hustle and bustle and fewer gifts. I try to focus on the reason for the season, not the hustle and bustle. I still have a long way to go, but I’m making progress. It’s a constant struggle.
At Food for His Children, we teach about restoring right relationships between God, self, others and the rest of creation. By focusing on my relationship with Christ, other relationships also begin to fall back into place and begin to be restored and strengthened. This year to help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I’m reading an Advent devotional called The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It’s a daily reminder of who Jesus is, who I am to Him, why we celebrate this time of year, and to take time to be still in HIS PRESENCE.
In the midst of this busy season, I encourage you to find ways to envelop yourselves in the presence of Jesus. To sit still with Him, to rest with Him and to experience Christmas joy the way it was intended.
Tis the season, rejoice and be glad in it!!