“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
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
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
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.
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
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 ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771