Immanuel. It is a word we hear around Advent (Christmas) but not often other times of the year. It is a word, that when you stop and reflect on its meaning, changes everything about the way we view life, this world, ourselves, and our relationships. Simply, Immanuel means God with us. God with us. Add an extra split shot to your line and let these words sink more deeply for a moment.
The famous Christmas passages introducing Immanuel come from Isaiah 7:14 (and repeated in the Gospel of Matthew 1:23). Therefore the Lord himself will give youa sign: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
There was one word that calls loudly to us during the Christmas season…PRESENCE. No, not presents. Presence. The amazing gift of Christmas is that God came to be present with us. Not only as a historical event 2000 years ago, but a living reality that fills our lives. And when the presence of God is welcomed to fill our lives, we find ourselves being present with others in a deeper way.
If you have eyes to recognize it, the theme of presence fills the life of Jesus and the Scriptures. Consider just a few passages:
- John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
- Or as The Message translation says it, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
- Acts 2:38-39. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
- Colossians 3:1-4. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
As a pastor believe me, I (Eric) could keep going, and going, and going. But let me help you catch and land a few key thoughts.
When you welcome God’s presence to fill your life, it changes the way you are present with others. You have the ability to bring the gift of God’s presence to others AND have the opportunity to bring the gift of your presence to others as well. My heart breaks for the lack of presence I am seeing in people’s lives today. The pace of life, anxiety, overwhelming media and “screens” bombarding us every waking minute…it is having an effect. We are losing our ability to be present with God (the root of our lives) and we are losing presence with others. Presence is only found in slowing enough to have time to pay attention and delight in those you are with. How present is God to you these days? How present are you with God? How present are you with others?
GIVE AND RECEIVE THE GIFT OF PRESENCE
Let me close with two simple exercises/opportunities that may transform the rush of Christmas to something truly meaningful. Would you consider giving and receiving the gift of presence?
- WITH GOD. Over the next few weeks, find 30-60 minutes to simply slow down, turn off all the screens, and sit with the words God with us. God is with ME. You may want to read the verses above or simply sit quietly reflecting on the love of God and how He has chosen to be present with YOU. Resist needing to DO something in these minutes. Simply sit, listen, and receive the presence of God’s love he has for you. HE IS PRESENT.
- WITH OTHERS. Set aside time in the days ahead to be present with someone else. Again, turn off all the screens, distractions and so forth. Simply be WITH someone—listening to them, enjoying conversation, and actually looking at them. Perhaps you sit on the floor with a child, or meet a friend, or talk to your teenage son or daughter in their room, or sit on the couch with you spouse. Again, do not have any screens out…the key is to give your full attention to another and enjoy them for who they are. At some point in this moment of being present, simply share one reason why you are thankful for and love this person.
Sometimes the greatest gifts come in the simplest forms. Let God with us sink into your soul and may your presence with another bring a gift to someone special in your life. I promise, if you will seek presence, you will not just give an amazing gift, you will receive more than you can imagine.
Merry Christmas from Altar Fly Fishing.