The Presence of Christmas

The Christian faith is multifaceted and beautiful, spanning 20 centuries of history in addition to the history of Israel for centuries before Christ.  And in all that time, it might be summed up in one word:

PRESENCE.

The promise of Christmas is that the child to be born would fulfill the prophecy that God would be with us.  This is why he is called "Emmanuel," which means, "God with us."  After Jesus was resurrected, God gave his Holy Spirit to the Church to remain with us until Christ comes again.  Living in the presence of God, we can experience all-encompassing peace (Hebrew shalom).

Religion without the practiced presence of God becomes dogma, ritual, and rules.  But religion with the practiced presence of God becomes mature, strong enough to be tender, which Jean Vanier said is the most mature expression of spirituality.

Presence is central to the overarching story of the Bible, as God wanted to be present with man and women in Eden, and will eventually be with people again in the fulfilled Kingdom of God.  

It's not hard to understand our innate desire for presence, actually.  Consider completing this sentence: "This is good, but I wish ____________________ were here to share it with me."   Regardless of the activities we may do through Advent, Christmas, and the new year, what we really want is the presence of those we love.  This, the Bible tells us, is what God ultimately wants with us.  

Imagine God governing the cosmos and still saying "This is good, but I wish [Insert YOUR NAME here] were here with me."  

God desires to be present with you but in the name of love will not impose His presence upon you.  As Jesus said in John's vision "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Rev. 3:20 NIV).

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