PRESENCE not PRESENTS

As another Christmas season is upon us, I wanted to try to share what is in my heart about Christmas.
For me, Christmas is the second most special time of year. Personally, Easter time would have to be #1 in specialness and sacredness.
Christmas is such a special time because it is the time when we celebrate Christ’s birth. God sent his only Son to earth, as a babe, to live like you and me, and eventually save us from all our sin.
My heart wants so much to capture that true meaning of Christmas each year rather than focusing on gift giving. In recent years, it seems I’ve struggled with how to make that happen, especially as my kids are now older.  It is almost like when Christmas Day arrives it is a let down because we just end up staying home together as a family; it feels like we should be out helping.
Even when my kids were little, we didn’t really promote Santa or extravagant gift giving.  Santa would bring one small gift for the kids, and they would get a few more. I realize for some people their “love language” is gift giving, but I’m sure you can guess that is not mine. For me, I think it’s that I don’t want “things” to get in the way of what is really important to me in life.  I don’t want to be rushing around all the time shopping and miss out on sharing the true spirit of sharing Christ.
Christmas is about PRESENCE, not presents.
It hit me this past Sunday as our pastor was talking about making people feel welcome at church so they want to return again. What hit me the most about what he was saying and finally clicked with me about how I feel, is that for me, Christmas is about being the voice and heart of Christ, through PRESENCE not presents . That is what makes my heart happy and sums up Christmas!
At Christmas, as well as year round, I find joy in focusing on sharing with those less fortunate and reaching out to help others in whatever way possible.
All of these thoughts really were solidified for me the Christmas of 2011, the year that Christmas had a big impact on me.  Our area was hit with a somewhat minor flood back in June of 2006, and then suffered a major flood in September of 2011 from Tropical Storm Lee.  It was the first day of school for two of my children, while my oldest was away at college, where he was spared from any storm experience.  Many people lost so many of their possessions and even worse was losing their physical houses.
We were blessed that our house is located on a slight hill, so our house did not take on water.  We did have a few trees at the far corner of our backyard, near our shed, that got uprooted and fell over into the creek.  Our shed is still standing, though the land underneath the one end of it, is still eroding away from the flood and now any rain. The major thing that was the hardest for us was being without electricity for a good four days. Considering we have a well, we did not have running water for the four days. We are thankful that a ways behind our house, probably a good 180 feet, is a creek, so we made many trips trying to haul water into the house so we could at least flush the toilets.
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Destruction and flooding of streets was located as close as at the end of our road, so we could only walk or bike (yes, my youngest son was crazy enough to try to bike through the water!) to get out of the house for a good two days. Trying to find passable roads to finally get dry ice on the third day was quite a challenge. The normal ten minute drive took one and one-fourth hour!

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All that to say, Christmas 2011 was a different year for sure. One of my son’s coaches through the years and his family, were one that ended up losing all their possessions, along with their house. That year, we spent my birthday trying to help clean up their house, but eventually they were told the house was too far gone to be livable. It was so hard to see all they endured losing everything they had, even the place where they lived, as well as the many years (actually three years!) of anguish trying to get money from the house that had to be demolished eventually and left a brownfield.
Christmas 2011 was the year that we did not put up a Christmas tree.  It just didn’t seem “right” when so many people truly were left with nothing.  Our family presents were kept simple, and we tried to help those that we could who lost all they had.
Christmas is about PRESENCE, not presents.

Even today, we know people who are so sick, confined to nursing homes or their homes, along with those who continue to be unemployed and seeking employment to help keep their families afloat.  With such hardship all around, it seems our voice and heart of being Christ for them, along with our PRESENCE is the best thing we can offer them.

I can honestly say this Christmas season seems like I am the most aware of the true Christmas spirit and feel I have been blessed with Christmas spirit personally.  I attribute this to the art of music being more meaningful in my life.

I have been blessed to be listening to a new, original Christmas EP that has helped me get more in tune with the Christmas spirit. Attending a “Home for the Holiday” musical as well as experiencing a wonderful production of Handel’s Messiah has also contributed to that experiencing the heart of Christ in my life. Taking time to also go to a Holiday museum to see various Christmas trees decorated in many different ways was very spirit filled as well.

Helping others in need continues to be a way we can be the voice and heart of Christ this holiday season.  Singing Christmas carols and praying for people at a nursing home and a shut-in’s house is always a blessing which helps my heart feel the true meaning of Christmas. I was blessed to be a part of that this year.  Bringing our PRESENCE more than presents is a joyous blessing.

Bethlehem in the  St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul

 Photo credit by Pi Istavan Toth under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

And so this Christmas season, I am thankful to try to be the voice and heart of Christ, sharing PRESENCE more than presents, and for experiencing that through the gift of others.  I pray that you and your families may be abundantly blessed through the birth of Christ.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  –Luke 2:7

Here is a link to one song on the Christmas EP that I am really blessed by.  It is called Joyful Eyes.

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