Present of Presence


Advent is a season of anticipation. A time of remembering the King that came and will come again.
So this whole Jesus-as-king–yet-born-in-a-manger thing has had me thinking about kings and kingdoms and the way things work on this earth and the way things should be. (And, ultimately, will be.)
Here’s a gist of what I’ve been thinking:

Earthly kingdoms and earthly kings recruit the top echelon candidates–the big whigs and Harvard grads and experienced leaders–to run departments and programs. Our King left it up to a bunch of fishermen.
Earthly kings are seen in suites and on AirForce1s. Throwing first pitches and hanging with the likes of other earthly kings, rich oil tycoons, and Oprah. Our king preferred the company of corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes. (Oh yeah, and those fishermen.)

Earthly kings and kingdoms emphasize power and strength. Our King said crazy things like “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

Earthly kings seek expansion at most any cost. War included. Our King values the art of peacemaking.
Earthly kings walk over people. Our King is Emmanuel–and walks with His people.

[Insert more comparisons here.]

Our God, our King, walks with us! What an awesome and amazing and oftentimes undervalued gift we have.

I’m leaving tomorrow with nine others for our annual Christmas trip to Emmanuel Children’s Home in Juarez, Mexico. I am oftentime asked by people “What is it that you’re going to be doing down there.”
I sometimes think they’re expecting the most earth-shattering, grandiose undertaking this world has ever seen. But in a nutshell, I try to communicate that we’re going down to give the gift of presence–just like our King gives us.

And, when you need it most, there’s no better gift than that.

Here’s a quote by Henri Nouwen that’s been passed along to me. I read it every morning. Makes me stop and think and get my day off on the right track. Hope it has the same effect on you:

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

How ’bout them apples?!?! (Not my quote, not Henri’s either, but quite fitting.)