"Daddy, can you stay with me for a little bit?" It's a bedtime request I've grown accustomed to hearing from my 5-year-old when he settles in for the night. On some nights that settling is instantaneous; sometimes it's a struggle. Whatever the case, there's something about a loved one's presence that makes a difference in his capacity to relax, to rest. There's something about Mommy or Daddy being with him that gives way to peace.
Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased. Luke 2:14, NLT
And there it is again. Right there in the Christmas story, revealed in the angels' song is that simple but saving reality that there's something about a loved One's presence that gives way to peace.
The angels can sing about peace on earth because they're in awe of the God who is pleased to be with us...personally, concretely, eternally.
Much of the way we live our lives revolves around a pursuit of peace, the ability to settle in, so to speak, enabling our hearts to be at rest. But here we see the peace on earth is announced to us, not acquired by us. It's not because we've altered our circumstances, but because Jesus has rerouted the course of history. I would submit that peace in the fullest sense of the term can never be satisfied with money, pleasure, or the absence of pain. At the same time the gift of peace cost more than we could imagine, yields unspeakable joy, and heals the deepest of hurts. The gift of peace is ours through the gift of His presence.
THE GIFT THAT COUNTS
I think Jesus understood what we really needed. He didn't need to give us more money or possessions to grant us peace. He didn't need to remove our trials and troubles to give us peace. He simply understood that what we really needed was His personal presence, that we would know Him as Immanuel, God with us (Mt. 1:23), that we would encounter Him as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14).
The beauty of this gift has challenged me with two reflective questions. First, am I personally and intentionally receiving this gift of God's presence in my life? I don't want to let this season pass let alone another day pass with out being wowed by this God who would empty out all of heaven to be with me. It's more than a nice thought. It's the gospel. And each day, I choose to not just acknowledge that good news but receive it, live by it, and be transformed by it.
The second question I've been challenged with is, Am I being intentional to give this gift? If God's best gift to me is His presence, can I choose to give my presence too? It's all too easy in the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, Christmas programming, Christmas gathering, etc. to skimp on our time with Jesus. While celebrating God With Us, let us not neglect being with God. Choose to give God the gift of your presence. In all our Martha-like activity this season, let's be even more energetic to give God our Mary-like attention (cf. Lk. 10:38-42).
There's an application of this in our horizontal relationships too. In the midst of bargain hunting and gift brainstorming, let’s be intentional to give our presence to those who matter the most to us. Be present. Be attentive. Be interested and invested. Find joy not so much in the reaction our loved ones get when they open their presents, but in connectedness and relationship of being present. Years from now our kids may not remember the gifts they got under the tree, but I bet that they'll remember who they were with. So let's give the gift that counts, the best gift we could ever give: the gift of our presence.