Manifesting Faithful Presence

The holiday season is upon us, and soon we will be besieged with school events, commitments, family reunions, and the world’s take on Christmas. For me, this season starts with my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving and progresses to the most stressful holiday for me, Christmas. It became stressful when I lost sight of God’s view of Christmas and focused on the world’s view of Christmas. It seems I get focused on trying to find the perfect gift instead of focusing on the most perfect gift ever given. So this year, we’re going minimalist and focusing on important things instead of gifts, concentrating on enjoying each other’s presence instead of each other’s presents.

I’m currently reading To Change the World by James Davison Hunter, and in it he presents a theology of faithful presence. According to Hunter, this is a theology of engagement in and with the world around us. It requires commitment, as it challenges all of the dominant paradigms of cultural engagement in the church.

It begins by acknowledging God’s faithful presence to us and his call for us to be faithfully present to him in return. From there, we must be fully present to each other within the community of faith and fully present to those who are not. We imitate our creator and redeemer: we pursue one another, identify with one another, and direct our lives toward the flourishing of each other through sacrificial love.

Next, we must be fully present and committed to our tasks, in order to honor God and pursue obedience to him, and lastly, we must do all of this within our spheres of influence. Faithful presence does not imply passive conformity, but rather a constructive resistance that seeks new patterns of social organization that challenge, undermine, and otherwise diminish oppression, injustice, enmity, and corruption, which in turn encourages harmony, fruitfulness and abundance, wholeness, beauty, joy, security, and well-being.

Enjoy one another’s presence this Christmas. Actively resist the world’s call to celebrate Christmas the way it wants us to, and celebrate it as God intended us to celebrate it: basking in the wonder and awe of what God has accomplished through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

– Joel Westa

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