Receive Is a Christmas Word

“Oh, you shouldn’t have.” As I was growing up, I often heard those words when a gift was given. Receiving can be hard. But as Christmas is the season of giving, so Christmas must also be the season of receiving. And sometimes, receiving is transformational.

As I think about receiving in my life, three instances rise to the surface.

  • When I was in junior high, my parents gave me a Princess phone for Christmas. It was the first time our family had a second phone in our home, and it was going in my bedroom. With this gift, my parents acknowledged who I am, someone who loves being in connection with her friends. Bill (my husband) has often said that my spiritual gift is telephone. Receiving this gift was easy.
  • During my sophomore year of college I received the gift of eternal life. It was explained to me from John 1:12 (RSV), “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” I had always believed in God, but for the first time I understood the connection of believing and receiving. That night I prayed to receive Jesus into my heart. Christianity was more than my religion, by receiving it became a relationship with the living God.
  • Last Christmas a friend was sharing Christmas with us. Of course we had gifts for him. His humble receiving was manna for our souls.

Did each of these receivings lead to transformation, or was it merely a transaction?

When I look back, I see that gift of a Princess phone as a transformational experience. My parents knew me and by their gift, they acknowledged who I am.

The second scenario was definitely transforming. That evening was a proverbial transformational stake in the ground. And the beginning of many transformations on my spiritual journey.

Receiving is humbling. Our friend’s humble receiving of our gifts brought greater joy to our Christmas celebration. A bit of transformation happened that Christmas morning.

Mary, the mother of Jesus demonstrates humble receiving. “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV, emphasis added). After a lengthy discussion with the angel Gabriel, Mary humbly surrendered to his words. She received God’s plan for her life. Transformation happened.

Andrew, my cousin’s son, created the wonderful picture of Mary that became the cover for the 2018 Advent Devotional for Presbyterians Today. The way Mary’s head is bowed in submission speaks to me of her receiving the will of God. Mary was destined to be the mother of Jesus. And in the process, Mary didn’t just agree to a transaction, she was transformed by God.

I want that to be my response; I want to be a receiver as I hear God’s whispers to me. I want transformation to be reality for me.

Jesus is a receiver. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9, ESV). Jesus received God’s love for him and is able to pass on this transformational reality to us.

I cannot give what I have not received.I want to receive God’s love dailyso I experience transformation and can pass it on.

Often life is hard. Receiving is painful. Ann Voskamp challenges me with her words, “But it’s not about growing tough enough to take what life throws at you: it’s about staying open enough to all of life to simply receive it.” She is referring to receiving what life throws at us, knowing that it has first passed through the hand of God, and allowing this “hard” to be transformational. Richard Rohr wrote, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” Whether receiving a gift, receiving eternal life, or receiving the “hards” that come our way, receiving is a gift back to the giver. Receiving is transformation.

A scripture to meditate on this Advent, John 1:16, NLT: “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”
A question to ask: How can I be a receiver of the blessings God has for me this Advent season?
A prayer to pray: Father during these weeks of Advent, please help me be aware of all you have provided for me. And help me to receive each of your gifts to me with thanksgiving. Father, please transform me in these days. Amen.

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