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The Gift Of Christmas Presence

I don’t know about you, but the Christmas shopping season is driving me nuts.

Every year, “Black Friday” sales begin earlier and earlier. Back in the day, stores began opening at 8am. Then 7am. Then 5am. Last week, “Black Friday” sales began Thursday night. On Thanksgiving.

American consumerism has taken Thanksgiving hostage!

Not to be outdone by local retailers, the “Cyber Monday” folks have been pummeling us with emails. And this year, the faint whimperings of “Small Business Saturday” have been heard.

I feel like Peter Finch’s character Howard Beale in the 1976 movie Network. Fired over sagging ratings, the aging news anchor, while giving his final newscast, looks into the TV camera and yells, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Not to beat a dead horse, but I can’t resist reinforcing my fellow blogger (and co-pastor) Eugene Scott’s excellent post about rampant consumerism. There must be a better way—and there is.

The Difference Between Presents And Presence

While lamenting the rampant consumerism in an Advent planning meeting recently, our youth director mentioned a group of churches in the northwest that produced a series of resources entitled “The Advent Conspiracy.” Their message is simple:

  • Worship Fully—remember that the focus of the Christmas season is Jesus.
  • Spend Less—spending more money on stuff at Christmas doesn’t make it more meaningful.
  • Give More—because the message about Christmas is about God’s gift to us, it becomes more meaningful when we give to others.
  • Love All—we can join Jesus in his gift to the world by loving the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick.

(The video at the beginning of this post provides a great overview of The Advent Conspiracy.)

Their message is this: Rather than stress over purchasing the perfect present, look for ways that you can give better presence. To God. To each other.

Jesus Is God’s Presence

Here’s how the prophet Isaiah foretold the day of the coming messiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 emphasis added).

Then, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was identified as this “Immanuel” (see Matthew 1:23).

And what does “Immanuel” mean? God with us. Jesus wasn’t just God’s present to us, he was God’s presence with us.

The best gift God could give humanity wasn’t a cool iPad 2 or even peace on earth. The best gift he could give was himself. Presence. And he did—he gave us Jesus, “God with us.”

You Can Generously Give Presence Too!

A woman in our church designed a handout for our congregation that offers ideas for giving away our presence. Some of her ideas include:

  • Have a family game night.
  • Go caroling in your neighborhood.
  • See Christmas lights together.
  • Resurrect an old family recipe and make it together.
  • Take a vacation from TV.
  • Pray together.
  • Talk about what it means to be present rather than only give presents.

When we focus on spending money, giving the perfect gift, and getting what we wanted for Christmas, it becomes so me-centered. It’s funny—I can remember only four or five Christmas presents I’ve received over my 47 years of life. Relationships, however, have impacted me so much more than any gadget or toy.

This Advent season, I ask you to join me in following in Jesus’ footsteps. Let’s make giving better presence a higher priority than giving better presents this holiday season.

So I’m curious. Do you have any ideas for giving presence? Please jump into the conversation and let us know!

If you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus during this Advent season and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church as we explore The Gift Of Christmas Presence.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. While he’d still like an iPad 2 for Christmas, he realizes it won’t fill the hole in his heart.


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