In recent weeks I’ve been reflecting on how Jesus’ coming into the world teaches us about presence, and how Jesus is the presence of the Father, God-with-us.
One of the Hebrew words translated as ‘presence’ in the Old Testament is ‘paniym’, which can also be translated as ‘face’. I love this, because it reveals something of the nearness of God’s presence and the close, personal encounter we can have with God face-to-face.
As Psalm 67:1 tells us, to experience God’s presence is to experience the light in God’s shining face.
I’ve also been thinking about how Jesus is the present of the Father; He is God’s saving gift to us.
‘Present’ is one of those wonderfully rich words that can have all sorts of meanings. When we think of Christmas presents, we think of gifts; Jesus certainly is the self-gift of the Father to the world. But to be present also means to be: here, to be near, to turn up, to exist in this moment, now, to be accessible. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus’ coming means all these things as well?
When I look at Jesus’ life and ministry, I’m struck by how totally present he was to everyone and in everything.
Whether in prayer to the Father, in conversation with the people he encountered, in proclaiming the kingdom, in ministering to people’s needs, in listening to their concerns, in suffering, in dying and in rising, Jesus was fully present in each particular moment.
I wonder if this Christmas we can practice being fully present in this particular moment, to these particular people in this particular place, without thinking of what comes next? Can we accept this moment as a gift from God, to be lived to the full?