Our phones are always with us. They are our constant companions from morning until night and sometimes even through the night. We break out in panic if our phones are misplaced or (heaven forbid) left behind or lost altogether. Our phones keep us ever connected to the world, and yet our phones isolate us from the moments at hand.
This Christmas, we suggest you put down your phone and show the people in the room that they matter. On Christmas, we remember our God took on flesh to be with us and dwell with us. He gave up far more than a few hours of screen time to be present with those around him. As you gather together this holiday, consider prioritizing the relationships around you by setting aside the technology and tuning in to the people around you.
I remember a graduation party where the young graduate was trying to read her graduation cards aloud to the room and she was interrupted not once but twice by a woman who wanted to share something trivial that someone else had posted on Facebook. Her phone scrolling had removed her from what was going on in the room in front her. Her insistence on sharing what she saw on her phone communicated to the room that this moment was not important—other people’s lives were more significant. This Christmas, set your phone aside and embrace the fleeting moments of family time that we are given.
Asking others to put away their phones and practice restraint may not be realistic, but is worth a try. A phone in a pocket is too easily pulled out from mere habit. We tend to embrace the habit of chronically checking a phone when it's within our possession. Consider offering a basket to collect all of the cellphones. Help your family members cultivate restraint by removing temptation. Maybe the phone basket can live in the bathroom so that people can access their phones only when they are in private. Setting aside distraction can help you to instead live into the moments.
Playing with our phones can be a nervous habit. Not having the phone places us in a moment of tension where we have to manage our own anxiety. We have to learn again to pay attention to the room we are in and the people we are with. We will discover that we don’t need constant stimulation to keep us entertained. Our creativity awakens when we set the screen aside and we are forced to interact with one another, in conversation, in playing games, in doing projects together.
Too much of our interactions takes place through our technology. A focus on our pipeline to the world takes us away from the blessing of face-to-face contact. Make eye contact and tune in to how others are feeling. Noticing the feelings of others guides us to empathy.
We have become a culture that does not know how to make small talk. We don’t chit chat with those waiting in line with us but instead we all stare at our phones. We don’t wonder enough about other people to ask how they are doing. Take a moment and notice others. Ask questions about other people’s experiences and ideas. Wonder what their lives are like.
Matthew 1:23 tells us, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Our God choose to make his dwelling among us. As we engage with one another's lives, we step outside of our own experiences and our world becomes larger, with no phone necessary. Let the holiday season be an opportunity to dwell with one another . Go deeply with those present, rather than skating on the surface of your screen. Choose to be fully present this Christmas.
Rev. Deb Koster