The warm glow of Christmas lights fills the room. Candles flicker on the cake. We break out in song.

“Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday, dear Jesus

Happy birthday to you!”

It has been our family tradition every Christmas day, since our firstborn experienced his first Christmas 12 years ago, to begin Christmas day with a time of celebrating Jesus’ birthday. A time of remembering together why the day is important to us. It starts with the selection of what kind of cake we will make that year. The preparing, the decorating, bringing down great-grandma’s fancy crystal plates with matching cups adorned with images of grapes in the glass.

When all else fades, Christ remains. Christmas day is a time of renewal for our family that grounds us in the great unending love of Christ, that generously gives us the ability to give to one another from that deep well of love. We savor each other’s presence. We play games and laugh loud. We wear jammies all day. And from our first meal of cake, we eat from an assortment of our favorites throughout the day. We take our time. We each open a gift, then enjoy it. Try it out, try it on, set it up, read it, play it, share it. We don’t look at the clock on Christmas. We are home with the love of Christ and celebrate the gift of presence.

Over the years John 3:16 has been plastered on billboards, stickers, bookmarks, you name it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  May we not tire of the deep message it proclaims. It unfolds beautifully as we read on to verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus was given to the world as a gift of love. This ultimate gift of love is for each of us to unwrap and experience in community, in all the details of our lives, practicing the presence of God wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whomever we are with. As citizens of God’s kingdom, may we perpetuate a worldview that embraces community. In the love of God, may we actualize his kingdom power, demolishing every wall of hostility by Jesus’ sacrificial love. May we practice this presence of God in the world he loved so much, that he sent his son as a vulnerable child of flesh and bone, to be with, to conquer all evil and provide a way of healing and wholeness.

I pray in the days of Christmas’ presence, my children grow to know deep down in their souls the love of God that came for the world — the well of everlasting love that never runs dry and is designed to spill out into every relationship, every interaction. The love of God that decentralizes self and embraces community, every brother and sister of humanity. The love of God that gives sacrificially, connects with others and unleashes God’s kingdom in tangible ways. The love of God that came to be with.

Because with that love, God can save the world.