PRESENCE: The High Five Gifts of Christmas (#1)

What I like about Christmas is that it comes right before the New Year. It helps me end the year with a positive note, no matter how hard the year had been. And it also helps me enter the New Year with hope because of the good news of Christmas.

I know for some people, this Christmas might not be a happy one, especially for those who have lost their loved ones, and for those who miss their family members because they cannot be home—such as our service men and women.

Still, the true message of Christmas can lift up our spirit, melt down our sorrows, and heighten our hope for a better New Year and beyond.

When we were young, the primary reason of joy at Christmas time is the gifts we received. Our expectation of gifts becomes bigger as we grow older. Maybe men are weaker on this aspect, as I heard women say, “the difference between a boy and a man is the price of his toys.”

Hopefully, sooner or later, we all become mature enough to look for gifts beyond material things. As I grow older, I long more for the invisible gifts of Christmas, than the physical ones. (That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your physical gifts—the more the merrier!) I am sure you also feel the same as you become older and more mature.

In fact, we all receive five most precious presents of life from Christmas. However, I’ve discovered that many people have never unwrapped all of these five gifts. A gift that is not unwrapped is equal to not receiving it.

If you want to make the most out of Christmas for a great New Year, you need to unwrap these five most invaluable gifts that I call the High Five Gifts of Christmas. I will explain why I call them High Five Gifts rather than Top Five Gifts.

In this article, I’ll focus on the first and most important gift of Christmas that we must unwrap to get the most out of the next year.

1 – Unwrap the Gift of God’s Presence

The Presence of God is where happiness resides, as King David said: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11) In spite of all his power, prestige, and prosperity, King David found God presence to be a happier place to be.

One of Jesus’ nickname is Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” His birth brought the gift of God’s presence. John said, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

The Word, with the capital “W” is translated from the Greek word Logos. It means more than just word, or speech, but it means the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as Jesus explained. It’s the Chinese equivalent of the “Tao”, the profound essence of God.

How can you know, see, or experience God’s presence? I would give you a nice Taoist answer. A baby fish was asking his mother, “Mom, I’ve heard people talking about this thing called ocean. What is it?” The mother said, “We are living and swimming in the ocean! It’s all around us. Even though we cannot see it, we can sense or feel it because we are within it.”

What if this Ocean, the Tao, or the Word, became flesh and live with us to make His presence more real and personal? In fact, that is exactly what happened on Christmas: “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

Jesus said something similar, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). He also said, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (Jn 3:3).

To “see the kingdom” is to see God’s presence, where the ultimate happiness resides, as King David stated. Just like the wind that we can’t see or touch, but we know it exists because of the result of its presence—the movement of the leaves, the whipping of our hair, the fluttering of the curtain. According to King David, the result of the presence of God is the ultimate happiness. The moment we sense the fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures that comes from presence of God, we are born from above. We enter into a higher level of consciousness.

In Buddhism, it’s called “the Wisdom”, or precisely “the Wisdom of All-Knowing.” One of the top prayers of a Buddhist is to obtain the Wisdom because it brings about enlightenment. The Wisdom is not just the presence of God, but God. Just like John said, “In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

In fact, all major religions seek God’s presence. Confucius said, “If I know the Tao in the morning, I am happy to die that evening.” I’m sure if Confucius was alive five hundred years later to see the star of Christmas, he would have risked everything, like the magi, to jump on his camel pay him homage. Luke recorded that a man name Simeon and a prophet named Anna waited until their old age to see the birth of Christ—the presence of God on earth—so that they could depart this world with joy.

Jesus Christ, the presence of God, is the fulfillment of what all religions have been hoping for. Christianity is not another religion in competition with others. It’s the fulfillment of the prophecies of all religions around the world throughout history. That’s why it is the Good News. It’s a joy to the world. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mat. 5:17)

There is an emptiness in our hearts that makes us hungry for God’s presence. No success or achievement in our lives can fill that gap. No processions, power, or prestige can bring us the kind of joy and pleasures equal to God’s presence.

The good news is God’s presence is one of the High Five Gifts of Christmas. So, don’t miss it. Let us unwrap it to experience the fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure of the presence of God. Merry Christmas!