Receiving the Gift

December 10th, 2015 Posted in writing

Christmas, which will be here in a couple of weeks, is not only about giving gifts; it is also about receiving them. We’ve probably all heard that it is more blessed to give than to receive. St. Paul attributes these words to Jesus himself (Acts 20:35). But it is important to realize that it is also blessed to be able to graciously receive a gift that is offered, especially when that gift is God’s own son, Jesus.

I’ve found that two things can keep us from being gracious receivers of God’s gift of Jesus. The first is the mistaken belief that we don’t need Jesus. We sometimes think that we are just fine without him and that, rather than improving our lives, his presence only complicates them. After all, he makes us aware of actions and attitudes in ourselves and our world which we know deep down aren’t what they should be. Wouldn’t life be much simpler without having Jesus looking over our shoulders or making us think about what we do and why? But to believe we don’t need Jesus makes it hard to truly receive him at Christmas or any other time.

The second belief is that we don’t deserve Jesus and his love. There is truth in this, of course. In the last analysis, God doesn’t love us because of our strengths. But he does love us despite our weaknesses, even despite our sins and failings. Sometimes we may see so little good in ourselves that we conclude that Christ couldn’t possibly think of us as his brothers or sisters. Besides, how could an all-holy God give his son to people like us poor liars and thieves who so often hate others, harm the world, even kill the innocent? If we don’t believe that God could want to give Christ to us sinners, how could we truly receive him?

But Christmas challenges these two beliefs. Christmas reminds us in no uncertain terms that God has given us Jesus. And Advent reminds us to pray for the grace to accept the fact that we do need Jesus no matter how much we think we don’t and that he will come to us (and stay with us) no matter how undeserving we think we are. Let’s pray that, when we celebrate God’s gift of Jesus this Christmas, Christ may find us with hearts full gratitude and welcome.

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