Presence Over Presents
I am the Queen of Gift-Giving.
The scent of an imminent Paper Source sends tingles to my toes. I spend countless hours each year determining my “theme” for holiday wrap and bows. I have spent an entire day in the Target card section, Soy Peppermint Latte in hand. There is just something so spectacular about having the perfect gift for each person I love.
Granted, it probably takes them less than two seconds to tear through my masterpiece, and cards often end up in the recycling instead of a beloved memory box, but for a brief, short minute, I am queen.
Being queen rules.
Time stops, and the recipient of my gift recognizes the value that I see in them. My heart is to ensure that they feel loved, appreciated, and cared for all wrapped up in several shades of sparkle. I’m not going to lie to you, being queen feels good. There is something incredibly satisfying about knowing that my gift has been the best one time and time again. It makes my time feel worth it, and knowing that I nailed it gifts back to me a feeling of value as well (yikes).
I can imagine that this is how God felt in sending His Son.
Knowing that His gift to the world would be number one time and time again officially makes God the King of Gift-Giving. I don’t mind being a close second to that. But, His Son wasn’t the only gift that the Father was sending that Christmas. In fact, He ended up being more like the several shades of sparkle, housing the very thing that would dominate gift-giving forever. He brought eternal life.
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:11; ESV)
He is a life-giver. He sacrificed Himself for the sake of saving us from eternal separation from our King. It cost Him His life for all the lives of the world. Not only did His life signal a change of our eternities, but His sacrifice radically redefined our time spent on this earth. By His death and resurrection, we can now engage in an ongoing and intimate relationship with the Father. He gifted us His presence.
“Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:6-8; The Message
Presence over presents.
Now there is something Santa doesn’t keep at the North Pole. No one, not even the Queen of Gift-Giving, can hold a candle to the presence of God. But what then am I modeling to my family, friends and co-workers by placing my value in what I give and how I give it? Because, let’s be honest, the only person feeling most valued in my gift giving ability is me. The countless hours I spend selecting the perfect card, the long drives to and from the mall, the days of wrapping and re-wrapping to ensure each gift is perfectly reflective of how great I am at what I’m doing – I can never get those minutes back.
“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him.” 1 John 4:8; The Message
God’s gift glorified Him.
My gifts glorify me. Hear my heart in this: I am by no means saying that gift-giving needs to be tossed out altogether for the sake of glorifying God. Nor am I saying that taking your time to find the right gift is bad. But when I look at the story of Christmas, at Christ Jesus as our perfect gift, I only see life. When I look at myself around the holiday season, I see (and smell) death. I’m running on two to three Americanos a day, dry shampoo is my saving grace, and I leave my house at the crack of dawn just to get to the mall before the chaos begins.
This Christmas my perfect gift is me.
If I want to reflect the best gift of all, then I need to reflect life. Presence over presents. I need to gift my family my fullness, and that starts with my attention. No one likes an already used candle, or just one running shoe. Similarly, I can’t give a half-hearted attempt at being intentional. I need to remain fully engaged. That means surrendering my Instagram likes and Facebook followers, Pinterest boards and selfie game. Prioritizing my presence as a present. It is a gift.
It also means reflecting life by protecting it.
I know my limits, and I know my family’s as well. I know when we’ve sacrificed one too many nights of downtime to prioritize festivities. I know when my house needs to remain a safe haven versus an open door. I know when a recovery day is not only desired, but necessary to keep going. I choose to gift my fullness to my loved ones this year, and that comes with proactively setting us up for success by saying “no” at times.
Gifts are my lady jam, and they will still always be a very special part of my holiday season but no longer at the cost of my presence. My presence will far outlast any beautifully packaged item resting underneath my tree. I would rather trade in my Americanos for homemade holiday brew, hours of traffic for hours of conversation, and dry shampoo for bath bombs and lit candles (my favorite downtime).
Your presence is the perfect present.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself us for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2; ESV)
I am going to challenge myself and you to let Christ’s gift dictate our Christmas memories this year. I’ve decided to retire my crown and claim His instead. I will probably still spend time in the Target card aisle and daydream about raffia and craft paper, but I will choose to give life this Christmas by being present and standing firm to do so even when the gift wrap doesn’t match, or a gift card will just have to do even if my soul crumbles a bit. My presence will reflect Him beyond myself.
That, my friends, is the perfect gift this Christmas and every Christmas – reflecting Christ to those we love in hope of them receiving Him.
Retired Queen of Gift-Giving