Time and time again, this scenario plays itself out
during the holidays …
Maybe it’s someone that was working a lot of hours during the year and neglected family time, or someone whose hobbies and other interests were more important than being there with the kids, or like on a hallmark tv show, maybe its a separation or divorce and now, it seems really important to buy stuff, lots of stuff, way too much stuff for the kids.
I’m sitting in a quaint, little Mexican restaurant with the family last week, and I look up to see a jewelry commercial, complete with tinsel and tree in the background and a pretty girl holding out a bracelet on her arm and looking at you through the camera like you are the best and only most amazing person in the world, because of that bracelet.
or when you read about the Black Friday sales this year you also see a long list of pictures of empty stores, because a lot of people didn’t want to go out this year for Black Friday, because like one person said on tv, “who wants to get punched buying a tv?”
A Gift Without A Relationship?
But I like buying presents for the people I love on Christmas, is there anything wrong with that. No, there really isn’t, it can be a great way of tangibly showing how much we appreciate that person in our life. But what is a gift without a relationship?
A gift without a relationship, is like junk mail sent with your name on it or a message from a friend that you haven’t seen for a while but when you click on it, it turns out to be a chain email that they sent to everyone in their address book. It is true, that you can actually buy the absolute right gift for a person without being present in their life but all that you have given them is not you and even the best of gifts don’t make up for not being there. Without a relationship that the present is wrapped within, it’s not much different than a random white elephant present at a party.
But this is what we have been taught, you can show your love by buying things. Or you can make up for you time not spent with buying stuff. But the present that the people who love you really want in their life is the present of you. For you to be present with them in the moments and days that lead up to Christmas.
God’s Presents and Presence
God as well, has given to us, presents, more presents than Santa or have been under all of the trees in all of the world. Martin Luther talks about all of the gifts that God gives to us when he explained what it means to have a heavenly Father.
The First Article: Creation
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
But, we do wonder are all of these gifts, just like random junk mail, given to everyone indiscriminately, and not personally meant for me?
So, we can have the answer to that question, God gives to us the most important gift of all the gift that only God can give, it is the gift of himself. Of any other present that we received it is the gift of God being present in our lives in Jesus is the reason why we are celebrating. Looking down at the little manger, with the little baby, we see the fulfillment of what the prophets of old had always foretold and the angel commanded Joseph to name Mary’s son, this is the name of Jesus Immanuel- God with us. God present in our lives. Even at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, this promise never changed as he promised every one of his disciples, Immanuel, “I am with you always till the end of the age.”
Jesus is with you and because of Jesus we now see all of the other gifts that God gives in terms of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus gives to you all of these: body and soul, house and home, relationships and supplies, all of it. The gifts that God gives to us are not junk mail, random letters with random names written on it, but personal gifts from a God who knows you by name and gives to us what we need in big and small ways. Some of the gifts are common to all of humanity, because we all have the same need, and gifts that are just for you, and what’s happening in your life right now.
God is present in your life in Jesus.
The Perfect Present
As a Christian, this Chrsitmas, you are to do what God has done, be present in a life, not normally with gifts, but with the gift of yourself. As hard as gift buying can be, trying to figure out what to get someone for Christmas, being present is by far the harder gift to give. Be present requires sacrifice, just like God being present in Jesus for required sacrifice as well. What we sacrifice is our time and often our sleep to be present with someone else. We sacrifice our heart and emotions knowing that being present in someone’s else who is hurting and in pain will break our heart as well. We sacrifice it being about me and my story, so we can listen and be a part of their story. This is why it’s so much easier to whip out the credit card and buy a gift, it’s a lot cheaper really than the cost we pay being present in another human life. But this Christmas, the time when God sacrificed everything to be present in our lives, as Christians, we do as God has done for us.
We give the gift ourselves to be present for one another. That is the perfect present.