Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23
Christmas Presence. That’s not a misspelling. Though we might feel as though Christmas is primarily about getting and giving presents, it is supposed to be so much more than that. In fact, Christmas is supposed to be primarily about a presence. When the angel of the Lord was announcing the birth of Jesus to Joseph he quoted Isaiah saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Mat. 1:23; cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6). Christmas is meant to celebrate Immanuel, God with us, the presence of God, Christmas presence.
In our secularized Christmas it’s not surprising that the presence of God has been hijacked by presents. In 2009 the buying frenzy included the following statistics:
- For the holiday season from November 1 to December 20, US online retail sales reached $24.8bn, a 4% increase over the same period in 2008.
- Spending on 'Green Monday' December 14 was $854m, 1% less than the previous year, but the three following days each surpassed $800m.
- Tuesday, December 15 set an individual day spending record with $913m. By comparison, spending on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) was $887m. 
Christmas is big business. The livelihood and continued existence of some companies and businesses is determined by sales during the Christmas season. The result is pressure to buy, buy, and buy. We are inundated with commercials and “great buys” and “sales,” and a host of other marketing propaganda to get us to spend, spend, spend. Now there’s nothing wrong with giving. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Getting is not that bad either. But when the material aspects of this sacred holy day of Christmas crowd out the core purpose of it, we need to reassess and get back on course. If we miss the presence of God at Christmas, we’ve missed Christmas.
How’s your Christmas spirit? Or more importantly, are you in the Spirit this Christmas? Are you focused on the presence of the Lord or presents under the tree? Maybe you’re just having a real hard time sensing the presence of the Lord this year. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe you’ve lost a job or are in danger of being laid off. Maybe you’re finances are so deep in debt you can’t imagine going further into debt for Christmas presents. Maybe, for whatever reason, you have a severe case of the Christmas blahs. There’s cure for that. The cure is Christmas presence. Let’s look at what God says in His word about His presence, the reason some people don’t sense it and how we can enter into and live in the presence of the LORD. Let’s ask a few questions and answer them. Hopefully we will, with God’s help, experience true Christmas presence as a result.
Where is the presence of the LORD? The presence of the LORD is everywhere (Psalm 97:5; 114:7; 139:7-10). The theological term for this is omnipresence. God is everywhere all the time. You can’t escape God’s presence.
What is the presence of the LORD like? In Psalms the presence of the LORD is described in the following way: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles and disciples of Jesus in power that Peter quoted this verse in his Pentecostal message that led to the salvation of thousands (Acts 2:28). That sounds pretty wonderful; that’s something that everyone should yearn for and live in. The presence of the LORD is the greatest present. But why don’t people seek out the presence of the LORD?
Hell is described as being removed from the presence of the LORD. In scripture it states of those in hell: “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 3:9). The greatest punishment is being removed from the presence of the LORD. If God’s presence is so great why then do some people run away from it or just don’t care about it?
Why don’t we sense the presence of the LORD? Why do some people flee from the presence of the LORD? Why don’t we sense God’s presence? Why don’t we feel it or experience it? The problem is not with God. He is not limited in any way or absent from any place. The problem is with us. Why can’t we sense the presence of the LORD? The simple profound straightforward answer is sin.
There was a time when humanity was first created that God walked and fellowshipped with us. It was a beautiful loving time of fellowshipping with God in His presence in the Garden. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God (Gen. 3). The consequence was our first parents no longer felt comfortable in the presence of God (Gen. 3:8). Sin caused a great disconnect between humanity and the presence of God. When we disregard God’s word and act like Adam and Eve we too will feel uncomfortable in the presence of the LORD.
It should be mentioned that sometimes even Christians miss the presence of the LORD. This may be due to simply living in fallen bodies affected by planetary sin, or the physical problems connected with the physical fall of creation under the influence of sin (Rom. 8:18f.). But there are other times when we are indeed to blame for not experiencing the presence of the LORD.
Jealousy quenches the presence of the Lord. Cain and his jealous unloving self-centered premeditated murder of his brother Abel resulted in departing from the presence of the LORD (Gen. 4:16). When we act like Cain in a jealous unloving self-centered manner, we too will be sent from the presence of the LORD.
Rebellion against God leads to people fleeing from the presence of the LORD. Jonah rebelled against God’s call and tried to flee the presence of the LORD. He was tracked down by God with a serious storm and great fish at sea (Jonah 1:3, 10). That got his attention and finally he turned back to God (cf. Jonah 1-4).
Sin desensitizes us to the presence of the LORD and its blessedness. Satan exacerbates the departure from the presence of the Lord by coming into the presence of the LORD himself to bring accusations against Gods people (Job 1:12; 2:7). And sometimes we sinfully simply forget to make God a priority in our lives. The presence of God is here. If you don’t sense it, ask Him, “Why?” Maybe this poem will explain why you aren’t in the presence of the Lord:
Into The Day
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
I didn’t have time to pray.
Troubles just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task.
Why God doesn’t help me, I wondered,
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I tried to come into God’s presence,
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why child, you didn’t knock.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on grey and bleak,
I called on the Lord for the reason—
He said “You didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.
—Author Unknown 
How can we experience the presence of the LORD? The answer is that we need to repent of our sin. At Pentecost Peter in the power of the Spirit connected times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord with repentance from sin – “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times o refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). To repent is to change your mind about sin and practically turn away from it. We need to turn away from our sin and turn toward God. To be “converted” also carries this idea of turning to God. When we do this God washes away our sins that separate us from His presence and invites into His presence (cf. Heb. 10:19-23).
Isn’t that what we need this Christmas, a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord? The word “refreshing” means rest relief, refreshing, recovery of breath, revival. Do you want to experience a revival that flows from the presence of the Lord? Go to God in prayer and ask Him to search you and then repent of any sin He points out (Psalm 51; 139). Then times of refreshing will flow into you from the presence of the Lord. We need a revival. Our nation needs a revival. It will come through repentance and conversion by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.
Have you seen those random acts of culture on You Tube? They take place at malls and highly populated areas. People will be at the food court and then all of a sudden music from Handel’s Messiah will begin to play. Then a single person stands and begins to sing a portion of The Messiah, then another and another until the food court is filled with the sounds of the glorious Hallelujah chorus. It really can bring a lump into your throat. But sometimes those involved in those random acts of culture are living lifestyles of rebellion toward God. If we are to experience the presence of the Lord we must move beyond mere cultural performances to a genuine desire to be pleasing in the sight of God. We need more than culture. We need consecration to God. We need more than random acts. We need life impacting repentance.
Examine yourself and let God point out any sin in your life. Don’t be too quick to think you are without sin. The apostle John was inspired to say if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and if we say we have no sin we make God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). We need to humbly go before God and ask Him to search us and point out any sin that is keeping us from His presence (e.g. Psalm 139:23-24). If we casually allow sin to go persist in our lives, God will wait and let us try to live without His presence until we confess and repent of our sin (Psalm 66:18). If we confess our sins God is faithful and will forgive us (1 John 1:9). If we want to experience the presence of the Lord we must confess and repent of our sin.
When we repent and come to God we are then suited to experience His presence. His presence is facilitated in our praise of Him (Psalm 22:3). And His presence is facilitated when we gather together in the name of Jesus (Mat. 18:20). All of this speaks to the importance of fellowship. When you come to the Lord, if you want to experience His presence fellowship in church with other believers is essential (cf. Heb. 10:24-25).
How should we respond in the presence of the Lord? The Holy Spirit directs us in how to respond to the presence of the Lord (John 4:23-24). Sometimes the Spirit will lead us to be silent in the presence of the Lord (cf. Zephaniah 1:7). The Spirit will always lead us to be reverent in the presence of the Lord (cf. Haggai 1:12). And the Spirit will impress on us to be humble in God’s presence (1 Cor. 1:29). There is no place for pride in the presence of the Lord (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:5-6). The Spirit will impress on us appreciation for His presence and a spirit of thanks in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 140:13). Lastly, the Spirit will fill us with a heart to worship the Lord in His presence. Psalm 100:2 states, “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” There’s a lot of singing at Christmas time. Make sure you remember your singing is in the presence of the LORD.
All of our responses to the presence of the Lord are summed up in worship. For all the Lord has done for us, we ought to worship Him. Since God inhabits the praises of His people, worship creates a cycle of His presence for us to dwell with Him in. Worship is the climax, the hallelujah chorus of experiencing the presence of the Lord. Glory! Glory in His presence. Glory to God in the highest!
Christmas is more than presents. It is, or should be, about the presence of God. It is about Immanuel, God with us, the presence of God. I pray you have a merry Christmas presence. God bless.