Giving Presence this Christmas
by Laura DiFatta
December 8, 2016
Jennifer Hagler Photography
By Buffy York
By Laura DiFatta
I’m busy, you’re busy. We are all busy. It’s really funny how the inherent “busy” in the season of peace and joy can drain the peace and joy right outta the Christmas picture. Sure, there are some individuals who’ve been ready for Christmas in every way since before Halloween. Shopping: check. Christmas cards: check. All the holiday outfits planned and pressed: check. Menu for all the holiday events: check. I’m in awe of those “together” people (I suspect there.Anyway, for the rest of us, there’s the possibility of a mental list so long that we are so deep in thought that we are tripping on things and putting the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator and such. There are the furrowed brows and snappy words, loss of sleep and things
Anyway, for the rest of us, there’s the possibility of a mental list so long that we are so deep in thought that we are tripping on things and putting the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator and such. There are the furrowed brows and snappy words, loss of sleep and things forgotten. We are so focused on the perfect picture of Christmas day that we are missing the possibilities in the here and now moments.
My kids think this time of year that they want presents more than anything. But what they really need and honestly really, really want is my presence. I’ve recently gotten irritated with my youngest because he asked me to play with him. Here’s how that less than merry Christmas moment went down in my head: “Argh! Can’t you see I am busy and I don’t have time to play Legos with you?! I’m trying to order you Legos for Christmas!!” That is some crazy irony. My little boy wanted me. The Legos were just with me.
And even though my teens act like they don’t necessarily always want to breathe the same room air I’m breathing, I know deep, deep down they want time with me. Deep deep down. Whether they consciously realize it or not, I know they need my intentional presence. Our eyes meeting. They need to know I really see them; that I am here, mentally as well as physically.
And so, I am taking a fresh look at presence. I am shooting for the daily goal of making sure I have practiced giving the gift of presence to each of my guys from the 47-year-old to the 6-year-old. Mind you, I’m not committing to Scrabble or Monopoly (that is the territory of the aforementioned one person who finished all her Christmas prep before Halloween. And if you know who she is, I just might send my littlest over to play a game of Monopoly. It’s his fav.) I am just committed to being intentional to give each one some focused time each day. This is not a perfect science and no day is identical, but I have a goal.
Some examples of giving intentional presence to my guys that have worked recently:
Playing ping-pong and shooting hoops.
Taking a “hike” through the “deep woods” (which amounts to the trees between neighbors yards) with my youngest son. Oh, the adventure and the treasure trove of sweet conversation and imagination!
Rubbing shoulders that have been hunched over school work and homework for hours. (moms of boys take note: This is a sure fire way to get conversation flowing.)
Getting up for coffee a few minutes earlier than usual to assure time for conversation with my husband before time to start prep for the day. (This is a practice we have been enjoying for many years and is treasured time for us both.) Getting up early is harder during the holidays because of the pace, but the benefit of this time together is so worth it. And the best thing as a primer for all my intentional good is my choice to spend time with my Lord every single morning. His presence is my treasure. The perspective from this time with Him informs my motivations, my attitudes, my actions and my relationships.
As you can tell, most of those suggestions involve effort and all involve sacrifice. I can think of endless “other things” I could be doing that are useful, but most of these busy things— although good (like laundry) can fill some spaces of time that may be better used relationally. I know, laundry doesn’t get done on its own, but sometimes there’s a better choice to make.
As a Christ-follower, something that motivates me is knowing that Jesus left glory, perfection, being constantly praised and in the constant Presence and communion with a perfect Father to come and be present with us. What sacrifice! One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Luke 10:38-41. It involves two busy sisters. Jesus came to their house for a visit and brought his friends along. Martha was understandably busy because of this unexpected visit. While Martha made the necessary preparations, Mary plopped herself down at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. Martha was irritated that Mary had left her to do all the work by herself and she told Jesus so. Do you know what Jesus said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset by many things. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.” Wow! Mary had chosen Jesus’ presence and He was her great reward. Time with him was the better choice and He was promising a lasting benefit from it. Could it be that each and every day, consciously choosing to spend time in His Presence is our best? Philippians 4:4-5 says that we can “Rejoice in the Lord, always and that we can be gentle with others because “the Lord is near.”
We can give ourselves the gift of time with the One who says of Himself: “I am… your very great Reward.” (Genesis 15:1) and “I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
Perhaps this is the very best gift we can give ourselves this Christmas season and anytime for that matter: time in God’s Presence; the Presence of the Holy One who loves us with an unfailing love and promises to give us what is better. Having spent time with Him, we can give the gift of our presence to others knowing we give as we’ve received.
“Peace I leave with you : my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)