Ever since Abigail was born, Courtney and I have been amazed at how little it takes to keep her entertained. For instance, Abigail has a box full of toys in our living room, yet she often plays with remote controls, pillows, and towels more than her own toys. Now, don’t get me wrong. She still loves her toys, particularly her Disney dolls. But, it’s amazing how often she finds contentment playing with everyday things left sitting around the house.
What’s even more intriguing is how little she wants to play with toys when Courtney or I volunteer to play with her. When one or both of us get on the floor to play, the toys become almost obsolete. All that matters in that moment is time with mom and dad. The laughter and energy that comes from simply chasing each other around the couch or wrestling in the floor far exceeds the joy of playing with plastic toys. I don’t mean to compare our interaction with her in a way that makes playing with toys a bad thing. Rather, I offer this comparison to highlight the value of relationships over possessions.
Obviously, we are in the season of Advent, the season of preparation and anticipation of Christ’s birth. Yet, I’m convinced in a world saturated by ads, commercials, and flash deals, we are easily tempted to focus our attention on which presents we will purchase for our family and friends, and which presents we hope to receive from family and friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this except so often we miss out on the gift of simply being with one another.
After all, Advent reminds us that Christmas is a story about the God who wants to be with us. The name Emmanuel literally means “God with us.” Our celebration of Christmas is a celebration of God’s incarnation. The greatest present the world ever received is God’s presence with us in the form of Jesus Christ. And perhaps we would do well to remember this same truth in our relationships. While we will no doubt share presents of all kinds, I do hope we remember to give the greatest gift of all: the gift of our presence. For there is no greater gift than the gift of uninterrupted time with those who know us best and love us most. May we share it abundantly.