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All I Really Want for Christmas is Presence Please!

Whew! ‘Safely home from an errand near the mall and glad I didn’t go to the mall. Getting there would have meant sitting in the sea of backed-up traffic waiting to get onto mall property. Apparently lots of people hoped to buy last-minute presents in our town today.

Presents can become the focus of Christmas but they’re not what we need. We need presence – God’s presence and the presence of loved ones if we want to stave off Christmas pain.

Pain Beneath the Glitter

It feels awkward to write about pain at this festive time of year (last year I wrote about Christmas trees). For some reason this year my thoughts keep turning to the pain that lies beneath much of the season’s glitter.

A radio pastor spoke of seasonal spikes in depression and suicide rates.  A family at church received devastating news from a doctor. A young mother lives stunned by her husband’s sudden death and a widow grieves the suicide of her adult son. The media graphically reports on a broken world.

Life  gets very hard. Christians doing their best to walk with God often suffer badly. We ask, “Where is God in my trouble?” The inability to experience God’s presence feels especially piercing when festivities celebrate His coming to the world.

Mary Had Trouble

Last week a message from Bible Gateway highlighted the moment when an angel told Mary she’d found favor with God and would bear His son (Luke 1:30-31). Mary’s heart soared in response to the visit. She composed the hymn of praise known as The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

I pondered Mary’s status as favored then remembered the agony that awaited her. A little more than three decades later the same righteous and favored Mary stood an apparent widow at the foot of a cross watching the brutal murder of her beloved and innocent son.

Mary’s spirits must have sunk low that day. Had God abandoned her? Withdrawn His favor? One can only imagine the despair she felt on that dark occasion. I wonder if she could feel God’s presence.  Did she struggle with the same feelings of loneliness, fear and doubt that plague believers today?

God was There!

Mary suffered terribly but God did not leave her. First He designated John to provide Mary’s needs. Then He allowed Mary to see the risen Lord. Mary lived long enough to fully understand God’s favor on her and the wonders He worked through her life.

We have no record of Mary’s late-life prayers but I bet they expressed an even deeper joy and more profound proclamations of praise than the recorded prayer composed in her youth. In time Mary saw the big picture of how God worked in her life.

Mary’s story can help when we find it hard to experience God’s presence. We only need to remember the unspeakable joy that followed her deep despair. Hardships do not mean we’ve lost God’s favor. They do not mitigate His promise to work all things to good for those who love Him and live for His purposes (Rms 8:28)

You and Me

If you have named Christ as Lord God will not leave you (Heb 13:5). You have His favor (Eph 2:8-9). Seek and find His presence  (Matt 7:7).  Expect good things from God in your darkest hours.

I like Christmas presents and even hope to get a few. I like the presence of friends and family more. Most of all I want to experience God’s presence in my heart and mind this Christmas. I wish the same for you.


About Cheryl Savageau

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

2 Replies

  1. Cheryl, this was excellent! I always feel for those who are grieving, lonely, and those or their loved ones who are ill or suffering when everyone else is celebrating. Mary shows us that we always need to take the long view! You are so correct too that the only thing that causes us to value the present is knowing that the heart is behind the present. Sorry to be so long reading and responding!

    1. Cheryl Savageau

      Thanks for affirming this message Carl! Tough circumstances can blind us to God’s reliable faithfulness if we’re not careful! You’re not alone wrapping up Christmas late – I’m still getting a few after-Christmas Christmas cards!

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