Only 362 days ’til Christmas!
That’s right, friends. Christmas Past has passed. And Christmas Future is way out there. But the Christmas Present remains.
Steady. Strong. Faithful. Gentle. True. Always true.
Immanuel… God with us.
His presence is the present. And it never gets lost or broken or outdated or recalled. It doesn’t dissipate, won’t depreciate, and can’t be destroyed.
Of all the promises God has made to us, the guarantee of His ever-presence is the one I cling to most. Whether I can sense Him or not, He’s near. Never distant or disinterested. He has proven Himself to be intensely personal, endlessly forgiving and full of surprises. (The good kind: joy, adventure, humor… and one day, HEAVEN.)
You surround me – front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it.
Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean – even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:5-10 (CEB)
The gift of Christmas means we never, ever have to be alone.
Behold… and be held.
…But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” ~ Luke 2:10-11 (TLB)
That wonder-filled, worldwide birthday extravaganza we just celebrated? It’s for Him. The Savior/Messiah/Lord. The babe in the manger.
We wrap our gifts because God wrapped His.
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” ~ Luke 2:12-14 (NLT)
The gift – God’s one and only Son – swaddled and given to us.
His birth signaled the beginning of the end for all that’s wrong in our world: war and poverty, pride and prejudice, sin and sickness, hate and hopelessness. And death itself.
The gift of Jesus is the gift of a lifetime… and forever after.
It’s a gift that calls for an all-out, everybody’s-in(vited), wildly-celebrated, centuries-long, universally-propitious holiday!
Extra merry, if you please.
And presents too… under the tree, inside a stocking, tossed on the porch or stuffed in a mailbox. (I hope St. Nick gave naps and PTO to all those weary postal workers. Bless them.)
One of my son’s favorite presents this year was a heated blanket (a Chanukah gift from his Auntie Jo). As it turns out, that present is a brilliant metaphor for God’s gift of Jesus, who surrounds and protects us… and gives our lives weight and warmth.
Jesus is – in every sense of the word – our covering.
He who lives in the safe place of the Most High will be in the shadow of the All-powerful. I will say to the Lord, “You are my safe and strong place, my God, in Whom I trust…” He will cover you with His wings. And under His wings you will be safe. He is faithful like a safe-covering and a strong wall. ~ Psalm 91:1-2, 4 (NLV)
Maybe that’s why we call Him Comforter.
That newborn baby – born to an unwed mother in a smelly stable – proved to be the mightiest and most storied King, Creator, Counselor (and yes, Comforter) of all.
A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us. He will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 (NCV)
He covers us and consoles us. His presence wraps around and warms us from within. Gentle, soothing, serene.
What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)
The help and comfort He offers are lifesaving… and everlasting. Jesus didn’t come to pat us on the back, give us a pep talk and watch us march to our deaths. He came to rescue and resuscitate us… and redeem all we were bound to lose. He lived and died, all for us.
As C.S. Lewis observed:
“Jesus came not to make bad people good but to make dead people live.”
The gift of Jesus is life.
Invite Jesus to wrap you up in His mercy. A blanket of forgiveness and freedom. Freedom from fear, shame, loneliness, pain… and whatever else litters your past (mine too).
The gift of Jesus is love.
Invite Him to drape you in His tender loving care. The kind of love that means you never need to feel alone, afraid, ashamed or abandoned.
The gift of Jesus is joy.
Invite Him to tuck you into the sweet serenity and bountiful blessings of His presence. When Jesus is near, there’s no lack of rest or refreshment. No shortage of grace or peace.
The Christmas Presence is yours for the asking.
Unwrap… and enjoy.
P.S. Wishing you a comfy, cozy, warm and wonder-filled New Year!