Presence not Presents

cross - cloud blueBy Shenay Shumake

I was five years old when I fell in love with Christmas.  It was the first time I can recall ever watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I sat cross legged in my living room, cotton flannel nightgown and head turned sideways staring at the big screen in front of me.

I was in awe.  It was late.  I was up.  It was not Saturday Morning. Cartoons were on.  There was music.  I got up and danced.  It was a magical moment I will never forget: when Christmas became my favorite time of year.

And that wise Linus was the first who told me, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government of this world shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us.”

Fast forward well over 30 years later…

I still love Christmas.  And in our house it has become quite the event.

Earlier and earlier every year, the kids start with the Christmas list.  This year, the youngest had made her list before the first summer scorcher in July.

I must admit I was thinking about the tree back in September, planning the menu in October, and asked my son when the 25 days of Christmas starts on ABC Family: the first of November.

Of course I have Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD.  Of course it’s the sound track we listen to while we put up the tree.  Of course I watch it on TV, while my husband makes homemade hot chocolate.  I still choke up at Linus revelation to Charlie Brown sitting on top of Snoopy’s roof.

When the show is over,  I rush off to the nearest store, or nearest room to wrap a present, or nearest computer to order something online, because they can guarantee it will arrive by Christmas Eve.

This year is a bit different.  A lot has changed in our lives.  There have been many firsts though not so magical.  This is the first year my oldest daughter left for college and the first Christmas she’ll be returning home.  This year we re-launched our church, and I find the future both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

And this is the first Christmas that our family will celebrate without my beloved “Grams”, who went home to be with the Lord just a few days before my birthday in the spring of this year.  Change, both good and hard has uppercut me, and I am staggering on the mat from the blow.

My husband just asked me the other day what I want for Christmas.  Honestly, presents seem so irrelevant in light of all these firsts.  I answered with, “I don’t know”, but now I do.

This Christmas I want another magical moment.

Would it be too much to ask for “Presence” and not presents?

Two thousand years ago those wise men knew the value of His Presence.  With their donkeys laden with an abundance of costly gifts, they came.   At the urging of angels, and the leading of a burning brilliant star, they came.  They walked across freezing deserts and wide open spaces to bring the best of what they could offer to a baby they didn’t know.  They brought presents because they honored His presence.

When did it become about us?  About who goes on a list and about what goes in a stocking?  How can we make something so hallowed so common?

I’m the first to admit, that I can be so, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”  Just like a childish chant.  For much of my life I have “gotten” from Him.  Not because of my goodness, but because of His.  He came to “bring.”  Yet, the present of His “Presence” is the greatest gift He’s ever given.

I need His “Presence” to go before me.  His “Presence” to distinguish me, His “Presence” like a fire wall keeping the enemy at bay, His “Presence” like a flame in the sky lighting my dark and lonely nights.

If only He would not take His “Presence” from me.  If only He would keep us surrounded.  If only we would sense that He is with us, greeting us with new mercy every morning, and singing over us as we slept all night. Watching and singing like a proud papa watches His babies fall asleep.  I will bring the best of who I am and what I have and lay it at His feet for all of my life, every day of my life, for His “Presence.”

What I really need for Christmas, what I really want for Christmas, can only come from Him.  But from my husband… I’ll take a diamond ring.
About the author

I am a passionate woman, who is so in love with Jesus, my husband, my children, and my purpose.  Detroit is where I call home and where we lead a congregation of people to Big Life.  I was born to refresh thirsty hearts and inspire people to see life as God sees.  I have been writing for as long as I can remember.  Speaking for even longer.  God has given me beauty for ashes, and life is good.  Not bad for a Black girl from Detroit raised by teenage parents and later a widowed single mom on the east side of town.

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