There are two words that are pronounced alike, but are spelled differently and have vastly different meanings. They both are used a lot at Christmas. The two words also remind us of what Christmas is really about.
The first word is PRESENTS. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right presents. We are embarrassed if someone gives us a present, and we don’t have a present for them. A lot of people judge the success of Christmas by how many presents are under the tree. And many presents are swapped after Christmas.
Giving and receiving presents are fine. It is an act of thoughtfulness and love. But too much of our time, energy, and money is often devoted to presents.
The other word is PRESENCE. This is what the real meaning of Christmas is.
Martin Niemoeller was a Lutheran minister who was imprisoned by the Nazis. He served time at Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich. He was known as “Hitler’s Personal Prisoner.”
At Christmas, 1944, he was with four hundred inmates crowded into the wooden barracks that were built for about sixty people. There were thousands of other prisoners which included Jews, Christians, and others who had preached against Hitler’s regime. Witnesses said that you could actually see the burning ovens from their barracks. The air was filled with the smell of burning flesh.
On Christmas Day people gathered outside and Niemoeller led them in worship. His Christmas text was “And His name shall be called Emmanuel,” which means, God is with us. Niemoeller recounts that the presence of God was so real he could see it in their eyes and sense it from their hearts. They were filled with peace. They knew that whatever happened, it would be all right. They knew they were not alone.”
People who were crammed together in small barracks, waiting to be executed, had a sense of peace because they knew the meaning of Christmas. It was about the Presence of God.
Christmas is about the fact that God came to earth to live among us. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.”
A group of young people had written their own Christmas pageant. It included some of the traditional characters, but in a modern day setting.
The children’s nativity play ended when you could hear the groaning of Mary behind a lightly veiled curtain. In walked a doctor with his white coat and stethoscope. Joseph quickly led him behind the curtain to where Mary was giving birth.
A few minutes later the doctor came out and announced to all of the people gathered, “Congratulations Joseph – It is a God.” That is the meaning of Christmas. God came to live among us. It is about His Presence.
John describes the Holy City. He said that it is the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. He speaks of hearing a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among His people. He will live with them and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:2-4)
Two words – pronounced alike, but have vastly different meanings and different results.
PRESENTS or PRESENCE