“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4

I don’t have a single light up for this first Christmas season without Kim. I don’t have any decorations set out to enjoy. There are only a couple decorations visible, but they were received as gifts this year from friends and consolers. Christmas is very different this first year, it’s obvious.

But not for the reason you might think.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

I have wept in joy-filled understanding of “Immanuel, God with us.” I’ll take his presence over any presents this year. Nothing this side of eternity matters as much this year as it did last year. However, things the other side of eternity matter so much more.

Presents? Not so much. Presence? Absolutely!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room…” Isaac Watts, Joy to the World

Joyful and jovial are vastly different. Jovial is not bad, but joyful is so much deeper. No sentimental excitement here. It’s not joy to the world because you receive a lot of presents. It’s joy to the world because the Lord is present. He has come. He is the gift. His presence is what we long for. His presence is what I need. Francis H. Rowley gets it right in the song, I Will Sing the Wondrous Story:

“Days of darkness still come o’er me, sorrow’s path I often tread; But the Savior still is with me—by His hands I’m safely led.”

This first Christmas is a heavy season for me. It’s unavoidable. There’s a weight of sadness. I miss Kim’s presence; but I have Christ’s presence. And to quote Dane Ortlund in Gentle and Lowly, “Jesus is not the idea of friendship, abstractly; he is an actual friend.”

“We can rejoice that we are children of light and life!” Kim Plumblee, Christmas 1981

Jesus is with me. He can lead me by his hands. Pain and beauty meet again. I mourn but not without hope. I am a child of light and life. I also resonate with the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, this year. Thomas O. Chisholm proclaims: “…Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide…”

Christmas is a miracle of his presence.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23

Isaiah 7:14 has now become Matthew 1:23. The promise has become a reality. This Christmas’ “presents” mean very little to me, except that they are a way to celebrate Christ’s birth. This Christmas’ “presence” means the world to me. Even though I walk in the shadow of Kim’s death, he is with me. Presence. Even if I go to the ends of the earth, he is with me always even to the end of the age.

“…grant that my part in the world’s life today may not be to obscure the splendour of Thy presence but rather to make it more plainly visible to the eyes of my fellow man.” John Baillie

As you celebrate Christmas and the presents you give and receive, I pray you’ll discover and celebrate anew Jesus’ Christmas presence.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. …Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.” Isaiah 43:2, 5

15 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you so much. I really enjoy reading your blog! It is my second Christmas without my husband and I told myself and the kids that we are going to celebrate the birth of Jesus, not presents! Last year we were still in shock and numb!

    • D. Ray

      Amen! Jesus is worthy of celebration!

  2. Anonymous

    Great word D Ray. Presence is so much more desirable than presents and this is a great reminder.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks D. Ray! Praying for you this Christmas season.

  3. Anonymous

    I always feel God’s voice when I read your words. Thanks for being an instrument.

    • D. Ray

      Through loss, I have heard God’s voice more clearly…probably because a lot of the distractions were exterminated. Something about loss removes a veneer.

  4. Anonymous

    Isaiah 43:1-3….it has spoken to my heart since loss knocked on its door 6 years ago…PRESENCE through it all… YES!! Thank you D Ray!

    Kathi

    • D. Ray

      Amen, Kathi!

  5. Anonymous

    What a great word for me today! My precious Marilyn just celebrated 44 years) was called home 10 weeks ago. I have always gone overboard with Christmas decorations. I just love it!! This year, not a Christmas light in sight. The greatest gift this year is His Presence close to me. Like the old gospel song says, ” I Can’t Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand.”
    Many tears,;a pain that is crippling ; and a Presence that is faithful. One day………

    Thank you for sharing!
    Merry Christmas!
    Be Blessed!

    Curtis Brewer
    McComb, MS

    • D. Ray

      Be blessed, Curtis. Thanks for your testimony. Walk faithful through this journey.

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing. Many of us can identify with your messages.

  7. Anonymous

    This is my first Christmas also, without her presence. And yes, it is tough duty. But I knew I must press forward through the doors in my path. So I struggled to string the lights outside on the trees & shrubbery with a heavy heart, many tears. The large Oleander I would string lights on everywhere, red, white & blue, mysteriously passed away with Libby. And then, I managed to get our artificial tree up in the house. And none of the lights would come on. As if they acknowledged her passing also. So, I ordered lights and decorated the tree. I still have not gotten the courage to hang the ornaments, Libby & I always did that together, for 48 years. But, with the help of one of my daughters, I’m going to get that done, too. And the house is filled with the light of His and her presence. Be courageous, press on.
    Mike Murphy

    • D. Ray

      This is beautiful, Mike. Your story proves that each grief journey is as diverse as those who have lost their loved one. Your courage is inspiring, brother. Press on in courage and joy in his presence.

  8. Annette

    Come, Lord Jesus come. Grateful for you! Merry Christmas D. Ray.

    • D. Ray

      His presence is ours through his Spirit, and it is palpable. Merry Christmas, Annette.

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