Presence For Christmas

Emily Carter

Recently, I’ve been starting to think that maybe we’ve got the meaning of the Christmas season wrong. What if, it’s not about the extravagant gifts we buy or the elaborate feasts we prepare? But instead, what if it’s about simply being present? What if we gave our presence for Christmas rather than our presents?

Think back to the first Christmas…

It’s a story we all know. Performed in schools across the world every Christmas, children retell the story of the birth of Jesus. Whether or not you believe it to have happened or not, I believe that the Christmas story tells us a lot about the Christmas season today. Every single person that was there in the nativity was there because they wanted to spend time in the presence of the baby Jesus. They turned up because they wanted to spend time with him, not because they were obligated to. What a beautiful opportunity we have in Christmas, that we get to spend time with those we love for no reason other than we want to. Even more than that, the gifts were a completely secondary part of the Christmas story. Yes, everybody knows that the Shepherds brought gifts of sheep, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But, there’s nobody who would argue that the gifts were the important part of the story. No-one would walk out of a nativity and argue that the giving of gifts to Jesus was was more important than visiting Jesus. How beautiful a reminder that at Christmas the gifts are nowhere near as important as being fully present.

Then, what does it look like to practise presence for Christmas?

Present at home

Perhaps, home is the easiest place to start practising presence. Where better to be present than with those you love? But what does this look like? Being in the same room all doing your own thing? Definitely not! Being present at home looks like fully embracing the ones you’re with. It looks like doing things together, enjoying each other’s company and simply having fun. (For an idea of films you could watch as a family, check out Jayne’s article) Being present means putting down the phone- that text can wait, social media isn’t that interesting anyway, that game won’t bring you as much joy as your family will. Your presence is the best gift your family could ask for. If you are going to do gifts, go for small gifts that show you know the person- rather than large gifts that are just an excuse to splash the cash.

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other

Burton Hills
A family watch television together at Christmas.

Present in the community

What better way to spread the joy of Christmas than to spread love to the wider community. There’s so much need in the world so why not give something to those in need. Christmas is the perfect time (not that any other time isn’t perfect) to feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, love the outcast, forgive the wrongdoer and inspire the hopeless. If we can spread a little bit of love to others around us, then surely that’s what Christmas is all about. The joy of Christmas isn’t something that we should keep to ourselves, it’s something that we should share with as many people as we can. Christmas is a time to think of others. It’s a time to share with others. Christmas is a time to give to those less fortunate than us. There’s so many ways to do it! That’s the beauty of life isn’t it- we get to love others from the excess of love we’ve received. We get to give to them from the excess of what we have. We’ll never know the effect it will have. And it’s all completely and utterly worth it.

Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.

B. C. Forbes

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