Unwrapping His Presence

Plans for the perfect Christmas danced in my head. Almost everyone from my side of the family and JJ’s side would be coming to our house at some point between Christmas and New Years. We’d never hosted Christmas dinner, and I was so looking forward it.

But, somewhere in the midst of all the preparations, I got tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. By the time everyone got here I couldn’t wait for them to leave.

It all started when my husband and sons petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. We don’t do colored lights on the tree. I am a “white lights” kind of girl, I insisted.

But JJ decided that our decorating decisions should be a “family activity” that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marital counseling? I wondered.

The control freak in me started to freak out. Don’t get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful.

I’d dreamed of this day and wanted to have the perfect house, perfect menu and perfect table settings. But hope was dashed when I discovered (the night before) that my Christmas place mats didn’t coordinate with my everyday cloth napkins, and I didn’t have festive napkin rings. Worst of all, I didn’t know how to cook a turkey.

When Christmas came, I had a house full of people but an oh-so-empty heart.

As I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper, I wondered why my dreams of the “perfect Christmas” hadn’t come true. Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids running around with remote control cars, adults on the couch snoring to the tune of Jingle Bells, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. We’d lit Advent candles and set out the nativities. Still, something was missing.

Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom and sat down on the floor in my walk-in closet. Taking a deep breath, I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. Slowly, I let each word remind me of that first Christmas night and God’s promise that came true in Bethlehem. “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger…” Luke 2:7 (NIV).

A cross reference led me to Isaiah 7:14: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel, God with us.”

Closing my eyes, I pictured Mary wrapping baby Jesus. Her hands carefully folding each corner of cloth. Like a beautiful bow on the perfect Christmas gift, she placed a kiss on his forehead.

That’s when I realized what had been missing. In the hustle and bustle of creating the perfect Christmas, I’d forgotten to unwrap the perfect gift, the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.

Bowing my head, I opened my hands and my heart, and unwrapped God’s presence in my closet that day. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family that were waiting downstairs. Simply pausing to acknowledge and thank Jesus for being with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and matching table settings could ever bestow.

It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all!

Jesus, no matter how busy today and tomorrow get, no matter or how lonely or overwhelmed I feel, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence this Christmas. Help me to see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In my Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion today, I shared the Christmas prayer I wrote the year that followed my time in the closet. Here are some links to download and print it:

Christmas Prayer PDFs (simply click on the words/links below):

I pray you have a very Merry Christmas sweet friends!!  I’ll be taking a little blogging break through Jan 2nd to spend time with my family. Before I go, I wanted to let you know the winners of my recent giveaways …

For my December 10th giveaway , Hazel  is the winner of:

  • A signed copy of my book, A Confident Heart
  • A “Living in the Security of God’s Promises” – printable
  • A Bath & Body Works Christmas treat
  • A Starbucks gift card


December 17th giveaway –  Lori and Jen are the winners of:

My wonderful assistants, Natalie or Leah, will be in touch to get each your addresses soon.

About Renee

Renee Swope is best-selling author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book, now available in six different languages. She is also co-host of Proverbs 31 Ministries’ radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee, which reaches over 10 million women around the world each week. Renee is a also national conference speaker and a contributing writer for Encouragement for Today devotions, DaySpring’s inCourage blog, and her writing has been featured through BibleGateway, iDisciple, Crosswalk.com and CristianityToday.com.


  1. Thank you for this Renee. It is so easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and leave out the true reason we even have this holiday – the birth of Jesus Christ. We female creatures want everything to be perfect and when it isn’t it is very hard to handle, but “God is with us” we just need to be quiet so we can enjoy His presence. One of my favorite verses is James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

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