“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:
“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.” Francis H. Rowley, “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”
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…” And as John Flavel has written in his book, Facing Grief, “…no comforts in the world are so delectable and ravishingly sweet as those that flow immediately from the fountain.”
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, A Diary of Private Prayer
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