15As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. 17When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. 18 May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus. 2 Timothy 1:15-18
This chapter is most often quoted for verse 7 as Paul reaches out beyond his prison bars through a letter to encourage his protege Timothy who is feeling challenged and alone in his leadership: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” It’s possible Paul was preaching to himself as well (I do this every time I get up to preach) because he was feeling challenged and alone as well. In his final and most intimate letter Paul reveals how fellow ministers have deserted him while in prison, even ones he thought for sure would never leave. How is Paul getting through this desertion and isolation? Through the presence of the Lord revealed through the presence of Onesiphorus. In stark contrast to Phygelus and Hermogenes, not only did Onesiphorus continue to stand for Paul he stood WITH Paul. This man went out of his way and searched everywhere until he found him. I can only imagine the tears of joy that filled the Apostle Paul’s eyes at this surprise reunion. When sitting alone in his prison cell, Onesiphorus came around the corner with the offer of a smile, the warmth of a hug, perhaps some homemade food from his family it would’ve been as if Jesus Himself had come to be with Him in his time of need. That’s exactly what it was. Jesus searched everywhere to meet Paul at His lowest point. When Onesiphorus reached to hug Paul it was the arms of Jesus that embraced him. The truth is, even if Onesiphorus had brought nothing with him, he brought everything Paul needed, the presence of love in a lonely place.
Isn’t this exactly what we all need this time of year? We don’t need Christmas presents as much as we need Christmas presence. Everyone is asking me what I want for Christmas and honestly, it’s nothing that can fit under a tree. I just want my oldest son Elijah with me on Christmas morning. He has been gone for almost six months with Youth With A Mission. He returns from Perth, Australia (the farthest point from us in Hawaii) on Christmas day. I don’t need presents. I just want his presence. When it comes down to it, this is what we all want. Everything that can be purchased will pass away. Everything that can be wrapped up will break down eventually. The only thing eternal is our relationships. The very power of the Christmas story is found in the title given to Jesus- Emmanuel- God With Us. His present to us is His presence with us and His sacrifice for us so we can be forever with Him. Jesus searched everywhere for us. He came to meet us in our prisons to let us know that He will never desert us and has come to set us free! Let’s give each other the best Christmas ever by truly being present with each other. Let’s not even wait for Christmas Day. Let’s put down the phones and turn off the screens and look at each other in the eyes and find out what’s happening in the lives of those around us. Or maybe, we can pick up our phones can call someone we haven’t talked to for a while just to let them know we were thinking about them. Most of us aren’t in physical prison cells, but most of us are all locked up inside and we need someone to go out their way to see us and hug us and remind us that we matter. The Christmas message was never about a convenient or casual display of affection. It’s about an extravagant seemingly reckless love that went out of His way to find us in our darkness to shine the light of hope. Let’s not go so busy buying presents that we forget the greatest thing we can give is our presence to the people around us.
Lord, I want to thank You for coming for me. I want to thank You for the friends who reach out to me from all over via phone, text, or email just to say “Hi” or to share a timely word You gave them for me. I feel Your love around me because of the brothers and sisters who show Your love to me. May I do the same for others. I can’t pay You back for what You have done, but I can pay Your love forward by truly being present with the precious people You have placed around me. Forgive me for ignoring those quiet prompts from Your Spirit that bring a specific person to face to mind. Sometimes, You just want me to pray for them. But, sometimes You are asking me to go out of my way to make sure they know they are not alone.