The Powerful, Priceless Gift of Presence
I can barely relive one of my most beloved childhood memories, but I can still remember it. It’s Christmas Eve circa 1975 and homemade cookies are set out for Santa with a note. An angel came and dropped off new sets of pajamas that my sisters and I now have on, and it’s time to go to sleep. But before we get under the cold sheets to make “snow angels” to warm them up, my dad brings us to the bedroom window to scan the early winter sky to see if we can see “him.” The one who will grace us with his presence, leaving gifts, making us feel special –– if only for one fleeting morning out of the year. Convincing ourselves that the white and red blinking lights moving through mid-air were reflections of bells on Santa’s sleigh, we would suddenly dive-bomb into our twin beds and force ourselves to sleep because, well, Santa doesn’t come when you’re awake.
Being Fully Present
Something in that childlike faith that believed Santa would, without a doubt, grace us with the indelible mark of his presence was never supposed to be lost on my life. It wasn’t supposed to be a fantasy or a fallacy, it wasn’t something I was supposed to grow out of. Something about me –– about the way I was living in that moment –– was supposed to remain. I realize now what has been lost. In my expectation and faith for Santa’s presence in my house, coming down my chimney, I was fully present.
Fast forward four and half decades, and the landscape of my life looks vastly different. My default mode, especially around the holidays, is rushed, stressed, and distracted. “Like I don’t care what it takes, I just need to get through this. In fact, make it January already.” What? Come again. Please tell me these negative, joyless thoughts are not coming out of the once little girl who, with joyous expectation, had no other thought than the one thought: HE IS COMING.
The Presence of Childlike Faith
In Luke 18:17, Jesus says these words, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Could it be that because children tend to live in the moment, because they are fully present, that it makes them fertile soil to receive and believe the Word of God with joy?
In contrast, many of us don’t make time to receive God like that. We won’t be present long enough to let our relationships with God and with others, germinate. It’s as if we’re weaving in and out of thorns, alternating between being pricked by the painful cuts of life’s razor-sharp edges or exhausted from the never-ending task of trying to avoid them. While we disdain the thought of the valuable seeds of our time and presence being sown amongst the thorns, do we not oftentimes allow ourselves to function that way? (Matthew 13:7) Letting the cares of this life choke out all that is worthwhile?
It’s Martha Syndrome on steroids, finding ourselves driven by “doing” and forfeiting the joy of “being.” We build isolating towers of disconnection with our own hands (actually our thoughts and mindset), and then Jesus demolishes them with one statement: “Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42 NIV)
The Incarnation is About Presence
What happened in a nondescript stable on that crowded night in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago was grounded in presence. God Himself had come to dwell amongst us, as one of us, undoing the shame of Eden. For a world that couldn’t see past the thorny canopy over them, a Star appeared shining brightly on the newborn Presence of Jesus. It was announcing to the world: What matters is here! Who matters is here! Jesus, the Promised One, the Savior, Our Reconciliation, the bridge between God and Man.
From that night forward and for the rest of history, mankind could know Emmanuel, God with Us, in the flesh.
A Call Into His Presence
Even today, Jesus is calling us into His presence and has made known to us the path of life. He is the path of life and in His presence, there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) If you feel, like me, that you have lost something, that you can barely recall what it feels like to live just one thought at a time –– and one that makes you come alive –– choose presence today. Choose to be in relationship with Jesus, the Lover of Your Soul, who is presently thinking about you. (Hebrews 7:25, Psalm 139)
Like the younger me intently looking out my window on Christmas Eve, live with joyous, expectant presence knowing: HE IS COMING FOR ME.
Annemarie McLean is a writer for Liberty Counsel, a nationwide public interest civil liberties law firm committed to restoring the culture, advancing religious freedom, protecting the unborn, and strengthening the family. In 2012, she founded 3D Missions, an international outreach taking the Gospel to the nations through the performing arts, and co-founded Brave & Beautiful, a platform empowering young women to live, love, and lead courageously. She holds a journalism degree from Oral Roberts University, with graduate work in organizational leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University.