I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Mine never seem to be fulfilled, and I’m guessing I’m not alone there. But as I thought about the incarnation of Jesus this Christmas season, I decided to make one resolution for 2017.
The reason we celebrate Christmas is because it represents the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh. Jesus entered into the brokenness of our world, of our lives, in a manger in Bethlehem. There are times when we wonder if God is there, if he is good or if he loves us. The incarnation gives us the answer.
Jesus came for us. God is not “out there” somewhere. God is near. God is present. He is present every moment and through every struggle. The good news of Christmas, the news that gives us great joy, is the news of the incarnation. This is the good news of the ever-present Jesus.
Jesus didn’t shy away from the brokenness of this world. He dove right in. He does not shy away from our own personal brokenness. He is there. He is present. As his church, he calls us to be present, too. Thinking through Christmas this year, I realized I needed to be more obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, and for me, that means I need to follow the example of Jesus where he has placed me. I need to be more present.
As I look into and across this New Year, I want to be more present to my family, to my church, to my community.
Distraction cloaked as “community”
There is a lot of hurt, a lot of pain and a lot of suffering all around us. We easily gloss over the hurt and pain of our lives in our social media world. We have learned, or rather been formed, to be connected always and yet never to be truly present. Distraction is with us at all times, and this distraction cloaks itself as community in the form of social media and other connecting apps and websites.
Next time you go out to eat or shop, notice how many of us are consumed with our phones. I was at my daughter’s dance recital, and as I was videoing her performance I realized I was only seeing her through my screen. In a real way, we have traded the beauty and glory of the real world, of real presence for our phones. We have traded real community for online “community.”
My phone consumes me. I want to be present to my family. I want to put my phone down and play with my daughter and listen to my wife. I want to be present to my church, to their needs and hurts. I want to be present to the work of God in me and through me.
If I am honest, my spiritual life suffers the most from my addiction to my phone. Prayer is harder because I need to check Twitter or Facebook or because someone emailed me or I need to answer that text. How often am I just present, simply there, quietly before God?
Are you (fully) present?
I don’t want to burden your conscience unnecessarily, but let me ask you this question: Are you present? I’m not asking if you are there for your family, for your church, in your relationship with Christ. I’m not asking if you show up. I am asking if you are fully there, fully present in the moment.
Let me challenge you and myself:
Turn off the phone.
Play with your kids.
Have dinner without the interruption of a text or call.
Don’t experience life behind a screen. See the beauty of God all around you and be present in the moment. I have a feeling if, like the disciples, we asked Jesus to teach us to pray, his first response to us in 2017 may be, “First, turn off your phone.”
To be the spouse and parent we need to be, we must be present. To minister to the brokenness of our neighborhood and community, we must be present. To love God as we are called to do, we must be present.
I am making the resolution to be present in 2017. Will you make it with me?
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.