Celebrating His Coming by Neglecting His Presence

Several years ago, a couple from our church invited us to their home for dinner.

I had long admired the wife. She was one of those people about whom I wondered, “How does she do all she does?” She had the same number of children I did, close to the same ages. She was active in several church ministries. She sewed for herself, her daughter, her home, and for other people. Her home was not only clean every time I saw it, it was nicely decorated.

Meanwhile, I felt I was barely keeping my head above water as a wife and mother. I concluded that God gave people different capacities. Maybe she was a ten-talent person, while I . . . was not.

As we enjoyed our visit at this couple’s home, the wife often popped up to go check on or do something. I understood that. As a hostess, you have to check on the kids or the potatoes or whatever. But her forays away from us seemed excessive. I wondered if we caught them at a busy time, and if so, why they didn’t reschedule. I mused that maybe she was the type of person who couldn’t sit still for very long, and maybe that’s how she got so much done.

I am not so needy a guest that I want 100 per cent of the hostess’s time and attention. But I confess to feeling just a little neglected.

As a child, I often saw a plaque in peoples’ houses which contained words about Jesus being the unseen guest of the home. Some time after I became a Christian, I understood that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He is not just an occasional guest. He is with us all the time. He is Lord. It’s His house.

Through our church’s Bible reading program the last few years, I’ve particularly noted God’s desire and effort to be with His people. First, He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned, they broke fellowship with Him. When He delivered Israel from Egypt, He instructed them to build a tabernacle. Later, after they settled in the promised land and David was king, he wanted to build a temple. Both tabernacle and temple had a heavy curtain between the holy place and the most holy place. No one could just barge in there. Only the high priest could enter once a year with a sacrifice for the people’s sins. When Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was torn in two, signifying that the ultimate sacrifice had been made and the way was now open to God. His kingdom was within those who believed on Him. Someday, when He comes again, we’ll dwell with Him as we never have before.

God desires our fellowship, to the point of sacrificing what was dearest to Himself. This season of the year, we run amok doing so many sweet and lovely things fraught with nostalgia, ostensibly for the sake of remembering the birth of His Son. Yet, in a sense we leave Him sitting at the table, neglected. It’s not that He needs us. He loves and and desires our fellowship. And we need Him.

Yes, He is with us all the time. With even our closest human relationships, much of our time and conversation together occurs while doing something else: shopping, cooking, working in the yard, etc. But even in those relationships, we sense a need to sometimes just stop, lay everything else aside, focus on and listen to each other.

How much more should we spend that focused time with our Lord? Yes, we can talk with Him all through the day, thanking Him for a good parking place or a good sale or a beautiful sunset, telling Him the concerns on our hearts, singing along with the hymns on our playlist. But sometimes we just need to sit with Him, spend time in His Word, listening, learning, worshiping. loving.

We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here. We need wisdom in the use of our time, simplifying, maybe laying some things aside. But most of all we need to remember who and what we’re actually celebrating. Let’s not neglect His presence. Like Mary, let’s choose the good portion, sitting at His feet and listening.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

28 thoughts on “Celebrating His Coming by Neglecting His Presence

    • I was full of frenzied doing Sunday morning, having left too many to be done then rather than getting ready ahead of time. Somehow, we ended up at church not only on time, but a little early, and the drive was long enough to reset mentally. No matter how much I try to avoid that frenzy, I still fall into it too often. I am thankful for God’s patience.

  1. This is so true! I am in the midst of a super-busy couple of weeks. All the activities are good things, and most are Christmas-y. But even during one of them yesterday, I found myself thinking the same thing: that all these events made it harder to focus on Jesus’ birth and the true reason for the season. I even found myself thinking that, in some ways, last year’s “covid Christmas season” devoid of most normal activities had made it easier to focus on Jesus. Your post encourages me to make more of an effort to remember the important things in the midst of all the activity.

    • I felt that way especially when I had kids in both elementary and high school. There were so many class and group parties, recitals, school and Sunday School programs. They were all good, but, my, it was all exhausting. That’s the biggest challenge, I think–to try to keep one’s mind and heart in the right place when you can’t eliminate the activities. I rather enjoyed last year’s quiet Christmas.

  2. Barbara, this may sound odd, but I kind of have mixed feelings about all the December focus on waiting on God and savoring Christ’s presence … not that it’s not important, but because of how easy it is to forget the rest of the year. This sums it up so well, I think: “We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here.” I love Christmas, but I want to live the whole year undergirded by the truth that He is here. Thank you for these thoughtful words.

    • That’s true: it’s a challenge all through the year to remember to spend time with Him rather than running around doing so much that we don’t have that time. It just seems more ironic at Christmas, when all that we’re doing is supposed to be celebrating Him. But that’s true through the year as well–we’re supposed to do all as unto Him and in His presence.

  3. Yes, how ironic and sad that we want so much to celebrate his coming that we miss his presence in our busy-ness! Thank you for the gentle rebuke and reminder. The lesson of the neglected guest is a poignant one.

  4. Barbara, another beautiful and wise post which gives much for me to ponder. “We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here.” Advent tends to remind me of His faithfulness all throughout the year. It fills me with hope for He will continue to be faithful. I am finding myself pausing and enjoying the stillness more with each year that passes. May we savor His Presence not only in this season but in every season of life. Thank you for these thoughts!

  5. We often neglect Jesus at Christmas, the celebration that focusses on him, as well as throughout the day. This summed it up so well: “It’s not that He needs us. He loves and and desires our fellowship. And we need Him.” We only learn more about him and his ways and deepen our friendship with him when we spend time with him.

  6. I call it practicing the presence of God. Just sitting. With Him. Talking and listening. It’s how we cultivate intimacy with our precious Redeemer.

  7. Yes, Barb, I’m intentionally cultivating time with Him, “Like Mary, let’s choose the good portion, sitting at His feet and listening.” I want to cultivate all through the year, not just at Christmas, but I agree, sometimes during the Christmas season we can talk about Him in the past tense, instead of the present tense. He is here with us, and we need to acknowledge Him.

  8. Pingback: Christmas Devotional Reading | Stray Thoughts

  9. Barbara,
    This line hit me square between the eyes: “We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here.” So true we do many activities to celebrate Him, but neglect to give Him what He really wants — our undivided attention.
    Advent blessings,
    Bev xx

  10. Love this post! So convicting. Thanks for drawing our attention to what really matters. Advent and Christmas season are füll with endless opportunities for distraction. But is so important to spend time in the presence of the Lord. In fact, this is the most important thing.

  11. I can get so exhausted getting everything ready – for family coming in from out of town, to even preparing for Christmas – that I do become too exhausted to enjoy the coming of family, the coming of our Savior. Thank you for the reminder!

  12. I’ve pared back my Christmas preparations drastically in the last decade. I want to spend time with Jesus and balance my self-care more than I want to decorate a Christmas tree or put up lights. One thing I’ll probably never drop from my Christmas activities list: little kids and their Christmas programs 😊🥰. I love watching little ones sing about Baby Jesus.

  13. “We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here.” Now that is a very impactful and true sentence. So easy to get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas without actually spending time with the One who we are celebrating.

  14. Pingback: December Reflections | Stray Thoughts

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