Presence Not Presents

It’s like a regift – an older post remixed from last year. Enjoy (the better version, I hope).

Looking at this year’s “wish lists” and nothing feels right. There’s a growing feeling of discontentment with “asking for” and buying Christmas gifts for the adults in my life. This feeling has been growing for several years.

Don’t get me wrong, Christmas gifts are a wonderful childhood memory, and I absolutely love giving gifts to the children in my life. But for adults? Something nudges my heart saying, it’s not about the presents—it should be about our presence.

I know when it started…

Several years ago, for the first time I experienced the craziness of “Black Friday”—thinking I had been missing out on a big aspect of the holiday season. In the wee hours after Thanksgiving I pulled into the very-full mall parking lot at 7:00a.m. It was a sensory overload. The Christmas music was loud, people walking around buzzing with excitement, Santa was already in the center court with a line of children; and there I stood, a little stunned and unsure where to go. I grabbed an over-caffeinated drink to give me the energy that I would apparently need and headed over to one of the big department stores. 

The store’s security sensors were ringing like obnoxious Christmas bells and the perfume ladies at the front of the store assaulted with scents that are better left in pretty bottles. Not a great start, but it was not going to deter me. I was at the mall on Black Friday and determined to be done with ALL my shopping that day.

Heading over to tables with big red signs indicating the best deals, I rounded displays as aggressive women pushed past me to snatch things before others could. Some deals were good, but nothing said “perfect gift”. I was even willing to settle on a less than perfect but “on the wish list” gift. Yet I found nothing. I had no idea that this would become the theme for the day. From store to store—I came and went empty-handed, becoming appalled at how people acted. There was no joy and certainly no peace. It was grab, grab, grab and get, get, get.

I found an odd and out-of-place moment of peace when I slipped into the dimly lit candle store playing soft and soothing music. In that store time stopped as I was taken into a memory-wonder-land.

The first aroma I noticed was spicy cinnamon apples, and was instantly taken back to a time of sipping cider in the cold while searching for Christmas trees with my family. The store beckoned me further into its sanctuary; the smell of toasted vanilla waft through the air and I thought of my mom baking Christmas cookies. Drawn into the very back a display of stars and angels and everything sparkly put a sense of wonder in me.

I lost the sound of the mall as I listened to a soft music box version of O Holy Night.  A bouquet of juniper berries and spruce filled the area and I was caught in a sacred and still moment. My eyes glassed over and I desperately missed my family. I missed decorating the tree together. I missed making pfeffernusse cookies. I missed my brother and I bundled in blankets while dad drove the car down Christmas Tree Lane.

And right there, in a candle store, I realized I had lost the heart of Christmas. I didn’t know how many years I had forgotten the true meaning, but it caught me right there in the midst of a crazy Black Friday morning.  At that moment I felt a bit like The Grinch when he finally learns an important life lesson; my heart beat harder and a lump grew in my throat while I gazed onto angels bathed in candlelight.

I quietly left the store, out the mall, and into my car. I was empty-handed but my heart was full. That year the gifts I gave were not from anyone’s list, but rather from my heart. And my only Christmas wish was to have the family together. It had been too many years since I’d been with my whole family, seated near the crackling fire and glow from the Christmas Tree, listening to the story of the first Noel.

Christmas, it’s about presence – not presents.  The presence of family, God, and love.  It’s about the things that matter; the things that I hold and treasure in my heart.

But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

Merry Christmas my Friends. Merry Christmas.

Copyright © 2009- 2010 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . . . soiled wings

11 thoughts on “Presence Not Presents

  1. Sniff sniff, so true. I am glad I read this post. It’s true that gift giving to adults feel awkward. It’s like they can get it themselves if they really need it. It’s the younger folks with no jobs or someone going through a tough time that seems to benefit from gift giving. I agree that presense is what matters, thats why, I’m giving everyone cards! All the young’ins and less fortunate geft gifts from me this year. It should be about charity (to me). Want gifts? That’s why there’s birthdays 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  2. I remember this post! It is so true! I hope that when you are in South Dakota, surrounded by the chaos of your beautiful family you are filled with love and peace. Thanks for reminding what the true reason for the season is. Even with Emma Christmas is a stocking and one present. I do not want the real reason to get lost in all the presents. Have a very Merry Christmas my friend!

  3. I hope you didn’t get my name when we all pulled names out of the bag for Christmas:) I am expecting a $35,000 58 Corvette (a real one). I love Christmas!

  4. Tears…What a beautiful story! Your words touched my heart and I will share this story with my friends. Well written, you speak from the heart…MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

  5. I love that. Gave me the chills. Beautiful. I completely agree, I would much rather go out to dinner with my best friend than receive a gift. I like gifts but I love just spending quality time so much better. Thank you for reminding me why Christmas is so special, it’s the family time and the friend time and the bonding time.

  6. Loved it last year – love it even more this year. It’s in part due to you that I have so much more presence this Christmas than ever before!

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