Big Idea: one way to make this Christmas season different is to give more presence than presents.
- This week’s word is give…presence!
- This week one of my teenagers asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said what I want more than anything is time together as a family. I want to create memories. I want to be WITH my family more than anything FROM my family.
- Right now many of you under age 25 are thinking—boring! Give me something with a battery!!!
- I don’t know if it’s because I already have a bunch of toys or because I’m getting older or what, but I don’t need or even want more stuff. I crave intimacy—deep relationship with God, Heather, my kids, and my friends.
- I was recently being mentored by Jeff Brown, our District Superintendent with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. In our conversation, I mentioned how I am head-over-heels in love with my wife. I love to go on exciting dates with her, I love to travel with her, and I even love to just be together, sitting on the couch, silently reading books. Her mere presence with me bring me so much joy.
- Jeff asked me about my intimacy with God. I said that I’m not satisfied with it. I want more. I long to hear the voice of God, for Him to lead and guide me every moment of every day. I said that there are moment—particularly in worship and in nature—when I feel so close to God and want to feel that all of the time.
- Jeff challenged me, asking me if just being with God was enough. Could I just sit on the couch and be joyful about God’s mere presence? Was I even spending quality, uninterrupted time with God?
- Jeff reminded me of the quote from Pastor and author John Piper who said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
- This is Piper’s definition of Christian hedonism. Yes, Christian hedonism. He continues...
- “We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him. By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.”
- We’ve all been told that it’s better to give than to receive. This is true not only with presents that we buy, but also when we give presence.
- Perhaps the most famous story of someone giving presence involves Jesus and two sisters.
- As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
- “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:38-42
- Does this passage convict anyone else or just me? I tend to want to be the busy person rather than slowing down, being still, and giving God and/or others my undivided attention.
- Jesus modeled the value of presence.
- John 1:14 tells us ...
- The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- God could’ve given us a gift from afar, but He comes close. Why? He values relationships above all.
- I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of this in The Message.
- The Word became flesh and blood,
- and moved into the neighborhood.
- We saw the glory with our own eyes,
- the one-of-a-kind glory,
- like Father, like Son,
- Generous inside and out,
- true from start to finish.
- This week I was reading through the book of Hebrews and was struck by these verses:
- "By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water."
- - Hebrews 10:20-22 (New Living Translation)
- Do you know the story? At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain that separated the people of Israel from the Holy of Holies was miraculously torn from top to bottom. No longer did people have to know God vicariously through a high priest, but could enter “right into the presence of God.”
- The real gift of Jesus was not His miracles of healing or merely a ticket to heaven, but access to the presence of Almighty God forever!!!!
- Do you see it? The greatest Christmas gift was the presence of God.
- He could’ve sent angels, He could’ve made stars flash in the skies—and He did both of those—but He did something that was so much greater. He gave Himself. He didn’t delegate. He didn’t send merely send a messenger, though He sent several to prepare the way.
- Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14
- “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.” - Matthew 1:23
- There’s an old negro spiritual called “Give Me Jesus” that says, “You can have the world/Give me Jesus.”
- What are you giving Jesus for His birthday? What He wants more than anything is you...not your presents, but your presence.
- Years ago I joined a few friends for dinner with a well-known Christian author and I asked him how he defines success. At first, he said he never thinks about it. Easy for him to say as a celebrity!!!
- Then he said, “Success is being fully present in the moment.”
- Stop. Pay Attention. Focus. Where Are You?
Where is your heart? Where is your soul?
In a million different places. Mind on a million different things.
Distressed. What needs to be done? Will you finish that project?
Who won the game? Fretting over a to do list that is unfinished.
Talking on the phone. Checking Twitter. Updating your status.
Wondering what "they" are doing. What's going on "out there."
Will I ever get ahead? The past. The future. Distracted. Out of Control.
Be still and know that I am God.
Take a deep breath. Rest in Him. Be rooted. Immersed.
Get comfortable with silence. Listen. Find your true voice.
Who and what is right in front of you? See things you didn't see.
Feel things you didn't feel. Now engage in this moment.
Be. Here. Now.
- What are you giving others? Give more than a product. Give yourself. Give your attention. Give your time. Give your presence. Give Jesus!!!
- He does not want you to keep Him to yourself. We have been called to not only know God, but also to make Him known. We have been called to share Jesus and give our presence to the world.
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