The Message, December 24, 2022: "The Best Presence Ever!"

The Message, December 24, 2022: "The Best Presence Ever!"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
December 27, 2022


“The Best Presence Ever!”
A Christmas Message
By Rev. Scott W. Cousineau

            His name is Eddie. He showed up here at the church one day as we were preparing for a funeral. Of course, he had no idea that that was going on. I greeted him at the door as he entered. He looked tired and a bit strung out. My pre-funeral ‘To Do’ list was running through my head as he stood in front of me. I wondered what he was about to ask us for.

            Thankfully, my better angels won out, and rather than dismiss him, or send him away because we were busy preparing for a funeral service, I asked him what he needed.

            He spoke haltingly. He was jittery and anxious. Shamefully, embarrassingly, my first thought was that he was on drugs, and he was looking for a little money. Then he shared his story.

            He and his wife moved to this country a couple of years ago. They were both working, but his wife had just had a baby a couple of months prior. Unfortunately, their joy was short-lived. While his wife was on maternity leave from her job, Eddie’s employer would not give him any additional hours because then they would have to pay him benefits. It was hard for him to fit an additional part-time job into his schedule. They were behind on their rent. Their landlord did not share their joy about the birth of their child. They were going to be evicted. It was not a great apartment, but at least they were not on the streets.

            Eddie had gone to another church … one of those large churches … and asked for assistance. He was turned away. They told him that ‘they did not do that sort of thing. They are trying to run a business.’

            Eddie was not speaking haltingly because he was on drugs. It was because he was desperate. Desperate to care for his wife and his child.

            We gave Eddie one month’s rent so that they would not be evicted, and we gave him a gift card to one of the local supermarkets so that he could purchase food and other necessities for his family. But even more, we gave him the gift of our presence. We listened to him; we heard his story.

            When I was in seminary, one of the most important lessons that I learned came from my Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor, a soft-spoken man named Steve. He told our group that the greatest gift that we can give someone in their time of need, in the midst of their desperation, is our presence.

            Now, you might be thinking that I am taking this opportunity to give myself a hearty pat on the back. But this message is not about me; it is not about telling you what a great and caring minister I am. It IS about the power of presence.

            This season, this night, the holy day of Christmas is all about presence.

            This season reminds us of another young couple experiencing troubling and desperate times. The story began in the chapter that precedes the verses read tonight. Mary, having heard the powerful words from the angel Gabriel, prepared herself and traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth. We are not certain why she made that trip. Did her family not believe the word of the angel? Was she concerned that her community would not believe either? Was she concerned about the shame that Joseph and her family would experience?

            We do not know the answers to any of those questions. But something compelled Mary to make that journey. And as she traveled, did she know how Elizabeth would react? Mary could not text her with the good news. There were not any “I am bearing the holy child of God” emojis that could accompany the message, “I am coming by for a visit.”

            We do not know if Mary had any idea how Elizabeth would react to the news, but scripture recorded it for us. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She shouted at the top of her voice: “Mary, of all women, you are the blessed one! So too is the child that you carry!”

            In that moment of anxiety, Elizabeth gave Mary that wonderful gift. She welcomed her. She celebrated with her. She offered Mary the gift of presence. And Mary stayed with her for three months.

            The story of Christmas is the story of Presence. It is the story of the promise and miracle of God’s Glorious Presence. God does not dismiss us in our time of desperation. God is not distant in our time of need. God is present with us and for us. God came to us in the most intimate way possible … as one of us. God is not an abstract concept. God was more than a word from an ancient prophet. God was … and is … in the here and now.

            God could always see us, but with the child in the manger, we could see God.
            God has known us from the time that we were knit together in our mother’s wombs, and in that Holy Child we can know God.
            We can reach out and touch God.

            The story of Christmas is the story of presence. Presence is the greatest present that we can give. Created in the image of the divine, that is the essence of our DNA.

            God came that we might know love. Jesus Christ came that we might share love.

            God sees us, God knows us. Jesus Christ came that we might learn how to see and know God.

            We love God by loving our neighbors.
            We see God by seeing God in the face of the stranger, in the face of the person in need.
            We know God by listening to their stories.
            The greatest gift that we can give is our presence.

            A couple of months ago, Eddie stopped by the church office. He did not stop in to get some additional assistance. He had a lanyard around his neck with his FAA credentials. He got a new job … a fulltime job … at the airport and can support his family. He stopped by to say, “Thank you.”

            That is the power of presence.

            May God bless you all this Christmas. And may you be a blessing to others as you share the precious gift of your presence. Amen.


Congregational Church