We have learnt to value the ‘presence’ of other people in an unexpected way this year. We have learnt to value each other’s presence by not being able to be present with each other for a time in many workplaces, at significant family gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and in our church buildings. How was that experience for you?
Denied physical access to each other, many of us learnt new ways to be present for one other on-line, and some re-discovered phone ministry, but after a while the novelty began to wear off. There is a richness about seeing people in real life, in the flesh rather than on a screen, as much as we were thankful for that. 2-D people didn’t look the same as 3-D people.
Pastors at the recent retreat shared of the opportunities and blessings of being present for people online this year and are being challenged to continue that presence for those who, for whatever reason, can’t gather physically with God’s people. But we also acknowledged the blessing of being physically together again with, and as, the body of Christ. The physical presence of another Christian, in spite of our faults and weaknesses, is something we can never take for granted and is faith-encouraging in itself.
Christmas celebrates the presence of God on his own earth in the flesh, in 3-D, in real life, in real time. Jesus who walked, talked, touched and blessed the lives of people in hands-on ways, introducing and bringing God’s presence personally into their lives. The greatest “present” the world has received is the “presence” in person of the God who gave us all life, in the person of Jesus Christ.
God with us in all of life, sustaining, encouraging, forgiving, loving, blessing and offering us hope when we can’t see any. Jesus who calls and invites us to be his presence, his “body” in the world, so that people experience something of him through their interactions with us. What an honour that is, to be his presence in the world. How else would we really know God’s heart, except through Jesus? And how else will people experience the heart of Jesus if not through us, his body, the church.
This year has been a challenging one for all of us in different ways. I pray that in the days of Christmas you will again enjoy the presence of the God who is with you 24/7, in person, and I pray that you will continue to walk through life with him into whatever 2021 holds for you and for his church.
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