It’s Christmas again—a time of year filled with lights, music, food, gifts, Christmas kettles and worship services. December 25 was established early in the fourth century as the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The tradition of giving gifts emerged to reflect the gifts of the Wise Men from the East, who brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh, as well as the story of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop known for his generous spirit. 

We are faced yet again with the big question of what to give. It seems harder to decide every year. Changes in global and personal economic realities, and changes in the ages and circumstances of the recipients, all make the decision as to what to buy or make seem more complicated.

A lot of time, thought and energy go into the giving of gifts as an expression of love. In recent years, a growing trend in gift-giving has been the gift of presence. Time is a precious commodity. Time spent with others is a gift greatly appreciated by both the recipient and the giver. In this post-COVID season of life, the heart longs for the simple pleasure of being together, to share unhurried minutes or hours, after so many months when we were not able to be with others.   

The gift of presence can be wrapped in so many ways: sharing a conversation and coffee, babysitting for an evening, assisting with routine chores, going for an afternoon stroll, taking in a game together, volunteering to support others, turning off your devices. You can be present and connect with those closest to you in ways that are uniquely you. Have you considered what giving the gift of presence could look like this Christmas?

Even more than the gifts of the Magi, the gift of God in human flesh, born as a baby in Bethlehem, is the primary foundation of gift-giving at Christmas. The prophet Isaiah had a message for God’s people centuries before the first Christmas. It was a promise of hope, wrapped in the presence of God with his people. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The Gospel of Matthew gives us the meaning of the Hebrew name Immanuel: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). God chose to be with us through Jesus so we could know him personally and be with him eternally. His loving presence with us is the greatest gift of all. 

Throughout the Christmas season, we will sing the words of Charles Wesley’s carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.” Let’s be reminded as we sing that God was pleased to dwell with his people. He continues to choose to be present with us today through the gift of his Holy Spirit. Wherever you find yourself this Christmas season and in the year that lies ahead, God is pleased to be present with you. 

This Christmas, as we carefully consider the gifts we will offer as expressions of our love, let us consider the gift of presence. And let us give the same careful attention to the gift of presence that God, in Christ, has offered us. May the eyes of our hearts be opened to see Christ, our Immanuel, in our midst. God is with us and we are not alone. 

Commissioner Floyd Tidd is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

Photo: Liliboas/Getty Images

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