Cody's Corner: Your "presence" matters more than "presents"

by Cody Biby

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Christmas music is on the radio, ads are all over the television, and decorations have started to go up all over the insides of houses. Some of the outside decorations are starting to light up the night.

For some people, this is a time of great joy, and they cannot get enough of all the joy this time of year brings for them. For some, it is a dreaded time of the year because they cannot stand the stress, the pressure, and all the gimmicks that ruin the Christmas season for them.

For others, it is a time of deep sadness as they miss loved ones who have died recently or long ago; this time of year only reminds them of what they do not have.

My first encouragement is to be gracious to each other and try to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Hopefully that will help you, no matter where you are at emotionally this Christmas. Love, joy, peace, and hope are supposed to be the themes of Christmas. Unfortunately, our enemy has turned these into stress, greed, envy, and depression. What will it take to get us back to celebrating the true meaning of Christmas? I am so glad you asked, and would like to answer with some challenges.

Parents, if you would like to get back to the true themes of Christmas, I would ask you to start thinking about your presence around your kids instead of just the presents you want to get them. We can think that they would only be happy if they get this or that; what will bring them joy is if you would just spend time with them doing something for others.

My kids, who are now in their late teens, remember what we did for others, and they enjoy talking about experiences together more than they talk about any present they got years ago that they could not even tell you the name of today.

Remember experiences, not expenses, and value presence over presents. You will see a change of heart in your children, and they will look forward to what will be done together every year if you do this.

Otherwise, all we are teaching them is that it is better to get than to give, and we are go-ing against God’s Word – which I have found out is a painful, shameful, and regretful way to live. Families, can we put the love back in Christmas? Too often nowadays, I hear about how awful it is going to be to visit this or that family member.

We all have annoying relatives that can get on our nerves.

We all usually have a family member that is better than the rest of us. The list could go on, but what good does it do? I have learned that, sometimes, these family members act like this because they have been hurt by a different family member, had a tragedy in their life, or are trying to compensate for something they should not even be worried about because no one thinks that of them anyways.

I have seen families heal when love was first and foremost, and problems are dealt with in a loving manner where everyone listens to each other.

This does not include family members that are choosing to be evil and only out to destroy, manipulate, abuse and use others. Love also protects.

We should still love and pray for those family members and hope we see a change of heart that can come from a relationship with our Savior and reason for the season Jesus Christ. It is sad that I even have to say that as a pastor, but these are the times we live in.

I heard a Focus on the Family the other day that dealt with some of what we are talking about. The wife of the family had written a book on why she had completely changed her attitude and actions throughout the whole holiday season.

She told of how she used to try to make every meal perfect and totally from scratch. She said how she used to make sure everyone was in their best clothes and had as close to perfect appearance as they could.

She kept at this every Thanksgiving and Christmas, only becoming more concerned with being perfect, and she increasingly got offended by family members because everything was about her and her family. It finally ended with her realizing she was about to have a breakdown.

She felt God lead her to completely reconsider and change how she was approaching the meals, family, and what kind of impressions she was leaving on her children in these times.

She learned that the time with family was more precious than working for hours on the perfect recipe.

She learned that the time is limited in two ways; the time of laughter and loudness with relatives only lasts a day or two at the most, and you never know when it will be the last Christmas with some family members.

She also learned that she was stressing her family out by trying to be perfect, jading their viewpoints by griping about certain family members, and truly missing out on the whole reason for the season. I would encourage you to try to relax this Christmas.

Remember, your family will enjoy your presence more than presents, and giving experiences more than self-focused expenses. I hope that we can bring love, joy, hope, and peace back to Christmas. It would be very 2021 of us if we did.