Words of Worth

His Presence or Just More Presents?

December 19, 2016

His Presence or Just More Presents?” by *Sherri Wolf

One of the favorite things my family likes to do each Christmas is cut down our own tree. I say it’s our favorite thing because in the end we love having a real tree that WE hand-picked and cut from the soil!  But honestly, the event is often a source of stress.

This yearly routine involves stomping around in sometimes freezing weather (faithfully done the Friday after Thanksgiving). It also involves arguing over which tree is the best.  Because we have 5 very opinionated people in our house, arguing makes it take longer, so we are now really freezing! Once we have our treasured tree, the biggest stress of all has been the painful process of how to get this thing to stand up straight. We have stories about how we have had to actually tie the tree to a nail in the wall so it won’t fall down. We have stories about me racing to Loews to get a new stand (in hopes that the stand would actually make the tree straight) while someone stands holding the tree in the living room. Our craziest tree story of all is when the tree flew off the top of the van and barely missed a car traveling behind us!

We all know that Christmas can be a pretty hectic holiday – too much to do, too many people to please. We often feel like we need more time, but can’t find it We need more money, but don’t have it. We long for love or sense of belonging, but don’t experience it.  And of course we see all the advertisements and picture book Hallmark images on TV, movies, and social media and we compare our real life to these and feel discouraged, discontent, down.

So I’ve been wondering, is it possible to get beyond the stress of an American Christmas, is it possible to experience peace and even feel relaxed in the month of December?  I’m not sure we can totally avoid the world in which we live, or the American culture of Christmas, but I think we can do some things differently and experience the presence of Christ in a more purposeful way.

My encouragement to focus on Christ at Christmas has come from recently reflecting on Exodus 33 where Moses has come down from Mt. Sinai, where he was given the 10 Commandments. He finds that the people have grown impatient and made themselves an idol of gold in the shape of a calf and so he is furious. God is also furious and burning with such anger He actually says He wants to destroy the people and start all over again – but Moses pleads before God to relent. Graciously, patiently, God changes his mind and then tells Moses that he should leave the dessert and go to the land He has promised his people long ago.  BUT God says that He will not go with them (Exodus 33:3 NLT).

Wow! So basically God is saying, “I’ll let you live and allow you to carry on to the land I have reserved for you, but I’m so sick of you and can’t stand to be with you and if I was with you even for a moment– um it wouldn’t be good!”

So this is the tension Moses finds himself with, an unhappy God and his fickle people.  Being wise and long suffering Moses again pleads before God because he knows these stubborn people can’t make it without God’s guidance.

15 Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

Exodus 33:15-16

At this turning point in his life, when they finally get to move forward, Moses defines himself and God’s people in connection with the presence of God. He says, “Unless YOU ARE WITH US, we are just like everyone else”. It is God’s presence that marks our difference.

I believe we need to say to ourselves: “God unless you are with me, my life is going to look just like everybody else.”  “God unless you are with me, my experience of Christmas is just going to be like everyone else.”

So will I just do the normal holiday things: celebrating St. Nickolas, spending more money than I actually have, collecting stuff I don’t need, creating debt that ties me down and stressed to the max….or is there some way I could invite Christ into my Christmas and make it different?

When Jesus came, born of flesh and blood, born as a baby in a manger, he came as our Emmanuel – GOD WITH US!  But so often we leave Him out of the equation. We are so busy we forget it is really about the birth of our Savior.

What will define your Christmas? His presence or just more presents? May it be His presence that makes our Christmas different.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

John 14:16-18 (NLT)

*Sherri Wolf is a native Texan who is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. She is married to Dave Wolf, the Senior Pastor at Grace Point Church in Newtown, PA. Sherri and Dave have three lively and talkative teenage children: Jessica, 17, Marissa, 14, and Nathan who is 13. The Wolfs reside in Yardley, PA as of January, 2016.

 

 

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