Grateful for Presence

We long for the presence of loved ones during the holidays.

An older couple with glasses chat with two women over a casual meal outside. A checkered tablecloth covers the table.
Photo by leah hetteberg / Unsplash

The whole family sat around two tables crammed together. Cranberry sauce, slabs to turkey, and lasagna flooded our plates. Conversation bubbled around the table. At one point, my mother leans toward my aunt and whispered, “We did it. We got them all here.”

My mom expressed what we all feel during the holidays: The longing and joy of presence.

Sure, we stay connected year-round on social media and group texts. But there's something about being there at the table...together.

We treasure these moments of being with family. Nothing can replace the hugs and laughter over jokes together. And for those who feel alone, this longing for presence can make the heart ache. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you. There's something incredible about presence I want to share.

But first, let’s rewind several millennia.

A Holy Transition

God had rescued Israel from slavery. Then, He brought them into the wilderness to guide them and nurture them as His people. Moses later received the Ten Words (commandments) and a slew of ritual and ceremonial laws. These established a system to be near a holy God.

Three connected circles on a spectrum: Holy, Clean/Common, and Unclean. Certain actions move one from circle to circle, like cleansing or polluting.
Transitioning from unclean to holy.

But the everyday person in the Israelite camp could not speak with or come close to God. Several layers of cleanliness, purity, and holiness separated humanity from God. God gave these commands to help His people come to Him in holiness and go from being unclean to clean.

It may sound weird but consider this: Your house goes through many changes for Christmas. The home changes from messy to decorated with gold tinsel and beautiful items. Then loved ones arrive. Consider the importance of having a ready home for the holidays.

Now, imagine magnifying that importance from God's perspective. How would you prepare unclean people to approach a holy God?

How God Made a Way

For instance, here are some of the steps God made His people take before He could dwell with them:

  • Building a Tabernacle with several sections, each in ascending levels of holiness preparation. For instance, the Most Holy Place, where God dwelt over the Ark of the Covenant, had gold plated items. But the outside courtyard contained bronze items.
  • Structuring the entire Israelite camp with the Tabernacle at its heart.
  • The priests offered up perfect sacrifices to purify the place and the people from sin.
  • Establishing key times and methods for how the priests served God. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest could only go into the Most Holy Place once a year to be near God. The priest would enter through a heavy woven curtain to enter God’s presence.

Could you imagine if this was still the method for knowing and approaching God? What if you were not the High Priest…when would you speak to God?

Brought into His Presence

But thank God for providing a way into His presence through Jesus Christ. He provided a solution for each layer of holiness need:

  • Jesus “tabernacled” among us, in the flesh, and lived a sinless life (John 1:14).
  • He brough God’s presence to a hurting world.
  • Jesus offered Himself up as the “Lamb of God” for the sins of humanity (John 1:29).
  • His sacrifice tore the curtain in the Temple which separated humanity and God.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:50-51

Because of Jesus you have access to God. The fact you can pray to the God and Creator of the universe at any time is a mind-blowing privilege. It is a delight. And to be honest, it’s a privilege I can sometimes make commonplace.

So, as you make room for others this holiday season, remember how God has already made room for you. No matter how distant you may feel from loved ones right now, God is already near to you. His presence is there through the loving arms of Jesus.

So, as you make room for others this holiday season, remember how God has already made room for you.