Presents of Presence

By MARIANNE WOOD

The English language is full of homophones: words that sound the same but have different meanings. Every time I meet someone new to our language, even young children, I greatly sympathize with them as they work through many challenges to obtain fluency. Among my favorite homophones are “presents” and “presence.” They contain a notable commonality: a gift. My husband recently pulled out a gift from our video collection.

It is a 2005 concert called Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road in which Paul McCartney produced some familiar magic. My husband and I finished watching this fascinating recording last week in awe. As an aside, the former Beatle whose American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I watched on February 9, 1964, on a small black and white television set was (and still is) that Beatle I adored enough to inscribe his name on a paper textbook cover in the fourth grade: Paul, Paul, Paul in pencil. Perhaps you did that, too?

With an intimate audience gathered in a studio where the Beatles created many recordings, McCartney demonstrated how the recordings were made, performed old and new songs, educated and entertained. During the last song, he involved the audience by handing out rhythm instruments to build soundtracks. Next, he added bass, guitar, and piano to the mix, and finally, Sir Paul made up lyrics that he warned might come out “a bit dodgy.” With his extraordinary gifts of creativity and versatility on various instruments heightened by his charming personality, the most beautiful aspect of the program, his presence, inspired me the most. And it made me realize what I value most.

Presents of presence. It is the greatest gift we give each other.

How do I know? Because my children and their spouses recently resided, albeit briefly, in our home. Our grandchildren, too! They were present under my roof and at our family home in the country for Thanksgiving, hosted by my sister and her husband in the room where my parents welcomed us year in and year out. Mom and Dad’s empty recliners reminded us of their former presence. We reenacted much of what they led us in doing for decades before: photos by the fireplace, prayer with hands held in a wide circle, then a line up in front of the rich assortment of traditional feast day foods followed by conversations at the table all for the joy of reconnecting and thanking God for his mercies.

Gifts of slippers and sweets and other treats express our love, too. But as I prepare my heart for this season of light, celebrating the gift of Christ’s presence on earth, I know what I would whisper to Santa if I were a wise child: more presence, please! Thankfully, we have His all the time, anytime. 

Psalm 16:11 in the ESV says: You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Amen.

Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright

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