God sent a present into the world, the gift of a loving presence named Jesus. The Gospel stories indicate that Jesus gave few material things to people. What he gave most was his personal presence, gifts that were treasures of the heart: belief in self, inner healing, peace of mind, compassion, forgiveness, dignity, and justice. This loving presence lives on in us and is the central focus of Christmas gift-giving.
Sharing the gift of personal presence means that we see ourselves as a gift holding the goodness of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Like Jesus, we can give from our inner abundance, gifts from the heart. Moments lovingly spent with another, for another through prayer or through personal presence, carry more beauty and have more endurance than anything material we could give. What greater things could we share than gifts that reflect the great love we have known in the person of Jesus: our care and concern, our hope, our joy, our understanding and forgiveness, our kindness, our patience, our acceptance of how things and people are?
When we think of our hurried pace of life, we see how Advent gets lost in the Christmas rush. The messages are all around us: ‘Buy this and you will be happy; buy that and you will show your love.’ Sharing presence is hard in a culture that keeps promoting material things as a sign of how much we love others. Sharing presence is difficult in an environment that encourages us to be as busy as possible so that we will be rich, successful, important, and able to buy more things.
When we are busy it is easy to miss awareness and communion with those around us and with those in our larger world. Advent is a good season to be more deliberate in sharing ‘the present of our presence’. It may be through a phone call, a letter, a visit, or through the bonding of prayer as we focus love and attention toward those who need the strength of God to be with them. We may think of other ways to share our presence in order to deliberately choose being over doing. When the feast of Christmas arrives, may we be more aware of the power of Emmanuel’s presence within us and our ability to warm the lives of others because of this gift of love.
Director, Mission and Identity