For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
II Corinthians 8:9
We often say that Christmas is about giving and neglect the importance of receiving. But receiving doesn’t always come easy, whether receiving a compliment, Christmas gift, or kindly offering from another. The gift might be as small as someone offering to share her lunch, lend a hand, or give a ride, but we often hesitate to receive. We don’t want to impose, be a burden, or make anyone go out of his way for little ole us.
Nice, religious, upstanding people can often have the hardest time receiving. We like to think of ourselves as givers, as compassionate and caring people. We feel more in control, less vulnerable, self-sufficient, and able to go it alone.
For most of my adult life I have served in what many call a “helping” profession, but I still struggle with receiving. I feel good about doing the helping while imagining I don’t need help from others. I have slowly come to admit that this attitude is pride; pride makes me fearful of being open and vulnerable to others. By wanting to be the giver, I close off myself from others. I deny them the joy of giving.
I have come to see that Jesus wasn’t just a helper, but a generous receiver as well. Jesus frequently asked others for help, and happily accepted gifts from others. As the perfect Man He showed us the grace of receiving generously. When a woman went to Him with an alabaster jar of costly ointment, Jesus allowed her to anoint Him with this precious gift when it could have been given for the poor (Matthew 16:6-13). When a young boy gave his whole lunch to Jesus, Jesus received it and multiplied it for others (John 6:8-11). Jesus saw Zacchaeus up a tree, and not waiting for any invitation, invited Himself to Zacchaeus’s house for food and lodging (Luke 19:1-5). Jesus allowed many the joy of giving.
Yes, God does love the “cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7), but He also loves a cheerful receiver. By opening up ourselves to receive we are actually showing love and trust to others. We will better understand grace as we allow ourselves to receive. Watch the pure joy of children as they receive on Christmas Day, and pray to be receivers like them. For of such is God’s Kingdom. No thought of earning, deserving, or needing to repay.
In London’s Westminster Abbey is a statue of 20th century martyr Oscar Romero who gave His life for the Good News of Jesus Christ. His Christmas poem, “The God We Hardly Knew”, here translated from Spanish, celebrates genuine, humble receiving:
No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God- for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.
- Do you have a difficult time receiving a gift, a compliment, or helping hand? If you do, why might that be? Might this relate to difficulty in receiving God’s grace?
- Oscar Romero says that for “The self-sufficient, the proud…there will be no Christmas”. What do you think Romero means by this?
- In what ways might Jesus model “receiving” to you?