Present time, present time…what can it be, what can it be? This was a little jingle my daughter used to sing on her birthday and at Christmas. Who doesn’t enjoy watching a loved one open a gift and the feeling of giving the perfect gift? The buildup is always part of the experience: presents wrapped with bright bows and ribbons, beautiful colors and packaging…all designed to make the receiver feel special and loved. And yet, I struggle with gift giving because I am not very good at finding the perfect gift and as for presentation, I admit that I frequently go for a recycled gift bag. There are times when I find that perfect gift which sure feels good. But the pressure! How can a gift truly reflect how I feel about someone I love?? I find it interesting – and somewhat ironic – that “presents” and “presence” sound the same. What if we used them interchangeably? Presence time, presence time, what can it be, what can it be?
Close your eyes and think about a time you knew someone was really present to you. It may have come packaged as a caring expression, a gentle holding of your hand, a tethering of your spirit with another. Perhaps words are not even spoken. When someone is present, you know it deep in your heart, you can feel it in your bones, and it feels like home. True presence is a gift and is distinguished by listening: when you are listened to, you feel connected, that your voice matters; it feels that you are honored, that you are unique and respected for being you; it feels cared for, that you are not alone. The gift of presence is invaluable, immeasurable in its effects, and it is life-giving.
The Ultimate Gift
During this unprecedented and challenging time of pandemic, we have had to be present to one another in such different ways, and we have been pushed out of our comfort zones. Through social distancing, masks, and Zoom, it takes more effort to be fully present and listen. With faith, we trust that God is wrapped up in all this confusion. God is always there, the ultimate gift of presence, the one who teaches us how to practice true presence. In the Bible, the word listen appears 278 times! Jesus began many of his teachings with “listen,” and in Mark 9:7 there is a loud voice from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” By truly listening to God in prayer, Scripture, nature, music, and in each other, we are filled with the presence of God. This presence shines as powerful as the brightest star, reflecting God’s light through us. Indeed, this is our greatest gift. Our Christ-light presence is a bright and hope-filled gift ready to give this Christmas and every day.
Give the Gift of Presence
Author Joyce Rupp gives suggestions on how to give the present of presence during this season physically or “in spirit.” 
- Be with someone who needs you.
- Be with a person who gives you hope.
- Be with those who live in terror and fear.
- Be with an older person.
- Be with someone who has helped you to grow.
- Be with one who is in pain.
- Be with a war-torn country.
- Be with yourself.
- Be with someone who has written to you.
- Be with a child.
- Be with a refugee who is fleeing from harm.
- Be with an enemy or someone you dislike.
- Be with a farmer losing his or her land.
- Be with someone who has terminal illness.
- Be with the homeless.
- Be with those who suffer from substance abuse.
- Be with hungry children.
- Be with a coworker.
- Be with those whose hope is faint.
- Be with world leaders.
- Be with someone in your family.
- Be with men and women in prison.
- Be with someone working for justice.
- Be with those who are abused and neglected.
- Be with your loved ones.
May presence be a present we share this Christmas, a beautiful, big bow around our open minds and hearts, a reflection of God’s loving presence to one another. May you experience giving and receiving the gift of God’s presence this Christmas and always.
 Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary (Notre Dame, Ave Maria Press, 2002), 21-22.