Receiving Christmas

During this holiday season, someone is sure to remind you that it’s more blessed to gift than receive.  To be totally honest, though, sometimes it’s actually easier too.  Have you ever been to white elephant party?  You know, the ones where you try to stick each other with the crummiest gifts possible?  One year I walked away with a plant stand shaped like a monkey. What do you say to a gift like that?

My friend Laura insists on knowing what gifts she’s receiving before she opens them. No surprises allowed.  Why?  Because she has a terrible poker face.  Apparently she was born without that filter that lets you feign excitement when you open a bad gift.   The only way she can adequately prepare herself is by finding out what she’s getting in advance.  Otherwise her true feelings are written all over her face.  She just can’t help it.

Sometimes receiving gifts can be harder than giving them.   If you’re like Laura, you might find it challenging when you open a present that’s not quite right for you.  But other times it’s just as difficult to open an amazing gift, a gift so thoughtful that you just can’t find the words to express your gratitude.

How do you react to a gift like that?

The struggle to receive gifts well is nothing new.  When the angel Gabriel showed up at Mary’s house, the Bible says she was greatly troubled.  When she told Joseph that she was going to give birth to the Son of God, he was ready to call off the wedding.  When the Wise Men rolled into Jerusalem to celebrate the newborn king, the people of the city freaked out, and King Herod called in the hit squad.

Two thousand years ago, God gave mankind the greatest gift of all time, and no one knew what to do with Him.  Sometimes we still don’t.  The cynical dismiss Him as a fraud.  The political use Him to gain power.   The busy blow Him off in the hurry of holiday preparations.

But others – the humble, the broken and the desperate – they know how to receive – with empty hands, open hearts and overwhelming gratitude that defines the rest of their lives.

John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Jesus isn’t just the reason for the season.  He’s the proof that God is crazy about you.  He’s the proof that the One who sees us at our worst still believes in the potential of our best.  Fresh starts and clean slates are the order of the day in heaven, where God generously bestows gifts of forgiveness and endless life.

Sure it’s more blessed to give than receive, but we have to receive first before we have anything of real worth to give.  If you want to give the people in your life the best holiday ever, start by receiving the best gift ever, the unconditional, unbelievable, yet undeniable love of God freely available in Jesus.   This isn’t just the gift that keeps on giving, but the gift that keeps on getting better every day.

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