This Christmas, Witness God’s Presence All Around

Every Christmas for nearly 30 years, my husband’s mother sent new Christmas ornaments to us and the children. There are creamy white Belleek castles and shamrocks and angels; engraved brass Christmas trees and stars; large globes covered with family artwork – enough to start the kids off on their own trees when it’s time.

Christmasornament

This year, Mom couldn’t give us our ornaments even though she’d picked them out. Suzanne Christmyer passed away soon after Thanksgiving, having lived a long full life and loved by her children and grandchildren. She was nearly 90.

If you’ve lost a family member, you know what it’s like going into the holidays. They leave a life-sized hole that sometimes seems as solid as they were, alive.   I never thought much about those ornaments or what they’d mean, but last week as I took them out, unwrapped them one by one and hung them on the tree, they brought a rush of memories. I felt her presence, heard her laugh, remembered how much she loved us all. In that room by the tree, it’s as if she’s with us still.

“With us” is the gift God gave us on the first Christmas. We were as good as dead to him, but he didn’t want to lose us. He wanted us to know how much he loves us. Not just after our time on earth, which is how long we have to wait to see our loved ones, but now.

Here are just some of the situations in which God is with us, according to his Word:

When we’re afraid: Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

When we’re in trouble: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

When we feel abandoned or weak: “I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:9b-10

When we’re persecuted: “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more.” – Zephaniah 3:15

When we’re sad or near death: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

Not only does he promise to be with us, we can’t get away from him and no one and nothing can get between us!

“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalm 139:7-10

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”– Romans 8:38-39

If you’re feeling far from God this week in spite of Christmas, curl up by the tree with your Bible and read some of these other ways God is with you and the things He will do for you:

  • John 14:16-17
  • Zephaniah 3:17
  • Isaiah 57:15
  • Exodus 33:13-14

“I’m with you always, to the close of the age” Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:20. And he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” As you celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, may you experience God’s presence in a very special way.


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Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Avila

    Sarah, thank you for the Bible verses and my prayers are for you and your family.

  • Marianne

    Sarah, my condolences for your loss. It’s amazing how the ornaments so lovingly selected and received can evoke such emotions and memories… some of my own ornaments are 30 years old.

    I have recently been “pondering” the phrase “God is with us”, especially in light of Dr. Edward Sri’s beautiful study on the Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother. “Hail, favored one. The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Dr. Sri spoke of the significance of these words. Whenever they were spoken, it seemed that the Lord had a special mission for the person. For example (my all time favorite, which carried me through):
    “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you… Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6, 9)

    We can all take these words to heart; the Lord is with US also. We hear this in the liturgy of every mass. Could this mean that God has a mission for EACH ON OF US? Yes, of course!

    Finally, you suggest that “This Christmas, witness God’s presence all around”. Here’s a photo of my view from where I sit as I say my prayers (note the wooden cross out the window). I am reminded daily by our Heavenly Father that the Lord is, indeed, with me always.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  • Silvia Planchett

    “If I gave you a hundred years to come up with a way to control the minds of millions of people, you`d probably come up with religion.”

    • Marianne

      I don’t really understand the quote or its relevance to Sarah’s post, however, religion (a.k.a. “faith”) is a broad term. The Catholic religion, faith in God, is actually a liberating experience. We are free to choose whether we believe and accept that God is, well, God. He does not seek to control our minds but rather to free our minds. There is more “control” through mankind. We are forced, for example, to allow Money to control our lives, because we can’t survive IN THIS WORLD without it (taxes, insurances, etc). However, those who truly focus on God are at peace. May you be able to witness God’s presence in your life and come to accept the blessings you can freely receive.

  • pnkyB4brain

    What wonderful, thought provoking passages from the Bible. Thank you, Sarah. So many of those passages I related to, especially at this time of my life. One of my children is so very sick and I can’t seem to give this heavy worry to God. I just take it back and then feel so powerless because this is completely out of my realm of “fixing things” like moms can. I then give it back to God, but then I go through this ego thing and take it back again, only to find that I am again powerless with this! Plain and simple, I am scared.
    I am going to print out the Bible passages you wrote abut and hang them in my office. Perhaps this will reinforce my acceptance of God’s power and love for me and my beautiful adult child. God is surely with us on this Christmas Eve day and always for all eternity.

    • I’ve been there before, with a sick child. It helped me to remember that God’s love for him is greater than mine is; that my son is first of all God’s child. But as I read what you wrote, and remembering how very dear to me were the tears and prayers of friends – I think of how God must treasure your tears and prayers for his child. Wishing you many blessings this Christmas!

      • pnkyB4brain

        Thank you for the kind words. May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas. May God bless.

    • Marianne

      As much as we’d like to, we cannot take away the crosses that God places in the lives of our loved ones. But we can trust Him. Today and every day we give honor and praise to God and thank Him for ALL things, in all circumstances. Each day offers its own blessings. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Amen, it’s all for the glory of God… pnkyB4brain, may you feel His presence and His peace.

      • pnkyB4brain

        Marianne, Thank you for your wish that I feel His presence and peace. I am beginning to look upon this struggle in a different light since I processed all that you and Sarah wrote. I have been so selfish and so self centered. Instead of looking at God’s plan I have been concentrating on my plan!
        Yesterday was a wonderful Christmas Day and for the most part I concentrated about how God was with us. It helped put my heart at ease. May God bless you for your beautiful words,

        • Marianne

          It’s natural for us to want to fix things or ask God to take away someone’s physical or emotional pain. We know God has a plan for our lives. Sometimes we forget He has a plan for the lives of our loved ones also, and that their pain or struggles shape their lives and more importantly, their relationship with God. So I will pray that your daughter can endure and grow THROUGH her illness. Following is an excerpt written by Oswald Chambers 100 years ago:

          “Peter . . . said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘. . . what is that to you? You follow Me’ ” (John 21:21-22). One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” …When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.

          May God bless you and your family.

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            Thank you for this post…I needed the reminder…and I might add that Oswald Chambers is a very old dear “reading companion of mine. 🙂

          • Marianne

            “My Utmost for His Highest” is one of my favorite books, with many dog-eared pages!

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            🙂 Mine, too.