The top drawer of my dad’s dresser was his ‘miscellaneous’ drawer. In it he kept a variety of treasures including pocket knives, tie clips and cuff links, random pictures and keepsakes, a bear’s tooth (yep, my dad was that cool!).

Dad died 31 years ago and those keepsakes were boxed up with a few other mementos. Mom remarried a great guy and they settled into their new life. My dad’s few boxes of miscellaneous keepsakes sat in the basement of their home for these past 25 years.

Mom pulled a box for me the other day. As they pack up their life, having sold the house and now moving out of the fray of the urban sprawl, not everything will be making the move with them. The box will be one of those things—it came home with me.

It’s musty. It makes me sneeze when I get near it. But it’s full of interesting treasures that I’ll be sharing with my kids, mementos of a grandfather they have never met but a man I’ve told them about their whole lives.

My stepdad is their grandpa – hands down a wonderful one at that! My mom couldn’t have married a more perfect fella. I love him dearly and appreciate what he brings to my life. So do my wife and kids.

But going through the box I am reminded again how much I wish my kids would have met Dad, Grandpa Roy. The box of trinkets is fun to look at but meeting Dad would be the panacea. Having him present would be far greater than any present we could possibly pull out of the musty old box.

Presence is the greater gift.

My heart aches a little every Christmas. It aches for my dad. It aches for my stepdad, who lost his first wife to cancer. It aches this year for my friend Julee, who lost her son recently. She knows the darkest of valleys these days.

But Hope exists in the valley.

Jesus is that hope. He is the gift of God to a broken and hope-challenged world. He is controversial and confusing – He knows that about Himself. But He knows our pain and our joy – He knows that the blessing of His presence with us is greater than any present He might bless us with.

To all my friends who’s hearts ache a bit this season, I wish you the greatest presence. May He, with you, be peace. I know loss and heart ache. I’ve known it my whole adult life. Jesus’ life is my hope.

To my friends for whom the thought of God opens up more questions than you’re comfortable with – I wish you the greatest presence as you honestly ask.

Immanuel – God with us. Presence.

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