Christmas: Peace in presence
Anticipation of Christmas focused on two items in my childhood, presents and presence. Christmas in the eyes of a child meant the excitement and mystery of giving and receiving presents. Each year the aura of surprise shrouded Christmas and energized my imagination. Would mom and dad like my gift? What would I receive this year? Would there be lots of gifts under the tree?
One year, the only gift under the tree was a pair of pajamas from my grandparents. But, other years, the gifts filled the space under the evergreen tree decorated by two eager brothers with dreams of what this Christmas would be. It always meant lots of homemade cookies and candy and hours of preparing for meals that we would share. And, of course, my brother and I would be practicing our parts for the Christmas play at church and school.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus is a gift to receive, open and treasure. As “children of God” (John 1:12), we can open this gift from our Father because we are part of His family. What joy to celebrate the present of Christ, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) as a gift greater than any other present we have ever received. Realizing Christmas is about the love gift from the Father, provides a sense of peace in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves this Christmas.
My memories of Christmas are also filled with presence. It was a time for family to gather. We would celebrate Christmas Eve with my mother’s side of the family then Christmas Day with my father’s side. Christmas was time for us to be together; preparing food, singing songs, exchanging small gifts and lots of laughter.
Christmas is about presence. Remarkably, God came among us as a living, breathing human. Birthed in a stable in humble Bethlehem, His arrival caused angels to sing and shepherds to celebrate and even wise men to travel from afar and offer precious gifts. The birth of Jesus was the gift above all gifts. It is His presence that sustains our hope as we face the New Year. It is His reassuring words, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20) that reminds us that His presence is the greatest of all presents.
After the gifts are opened and family and guests have left, the Gift of all gifts continues to bring peace that sustains us in the new year. That peace keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Jesus is the presence/present that keeps on giving. Sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
— Eldon Fry, D.Min. College Pastor