Pastor's Corner: How do we receive?


Last updated 12/23/2021 at 7:44am

We have finally reached that point in the season. It's crunch time for gift selection, wrapping, and Christmas dinner grocery shopping. If your family or company Christmas party hasn't taken place already it will very soon, and don't forget a gag gift for the gift exchange game.

With all of the holiday preparation at full speed and the anticipation of mass unboxings on Christmas morning, memories of past Christmases are sure to cross our minds. Among them will be memories of some of our most favorite gifts, both the ones you gave and the ones you received. Certainly, some memories will creep in of how someone gave you something that perhaps wasn't the most thoughtful, or how you might have bought that last-one-on-the-rack, ill-fitting sweater for someone else at the last minute.

Regardless of who was on the giving or receiving end of those gifts, so many of us have been taught the phrase, "it is better to give than to receive." This phrase has done well to bring out goodwill from many, or at the very least made the most selfish of us think a little of those less fortunate. However, the origin of the phrase is not about teaching us not to be selfish during the holidays. In fact, it has nothing to do with Christmas at all.

The original phrase comes from the King James translation of Acts 20:35, "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive."

The context of the phrase is St. Paul's final sermon to the leaders of the church he planted in Ephesus. He knew he would never see them again and was imparting some final wisdom and encouragement. He was showing them how he supported himself through the work of his own hands and didn't demand any support from them. He was showing them his example of working to support the poor. The actual phrase "it is more blessed to give than to receive" Paul attributes to Jesus himself. In this context, the phrase refers to the consistent care for the poor and marginalized at all times rather than just the holidays.

Does this give us license to be selfish at Christmas, if the phrase has no direct connection to the holiday? We could hardly come to that conclusion. Jesus, taught us through his life, death and resurrection that giving is more than just about being generous, but about giving of oneself completely to others. It is ultimately about love. Christmas is also about love. The "true meaning of Christmas," having become so commercialized and secularized throughout the last century and a quarter, has been reduced to mutated moralisms such as the one about giving rather than receiving. Christmas, however, teaches us a different aspect of love. Christmas teaches us how to receive gifts given in such great love.

Jesus was given to the world as a gift of profound, unconditional love. How do we receive the gifts given to us? The wrapped boxes on Christmas morning that many have received, in many cases, are indeed some very thoughtful gifts. The way we treat the gifts that are given to us show the people who gave them to us what we think of the gifts. By extension, it also shows what regard we have for the people who gave them and the feelings and love put into them. It is easy and understandable, that if a gift is clearly not thoughtful, or even an afterthought entirely, for that gift to be treated as such. The giver of that gift might learn from their mistake or continue to give thoughtlessly.

An appropriate response to the person of a gift given thoughtfully, or even sacrificially, shows the value and strength of the relationship between the giver and the receiver. But the gift of God's only begotten son is by no means thoughtless. Jesus gave all of himself to us, submitted himself fully to the mercies of this world, so that the world might receive his mercy. How, then, do we respond to the gift of Jesus? In Matthew 10:5-8, Jesus sends out his disciples to do ministry in Galilee. In his instructions Jesus gives us the answer. "Freely you have received, freely give."

This Christmas, make your gifts to whomever, about giving of yourself. If you have accepted the gift of Jesus, then that means you will be giving Jesus to others as well.


The Rev. Joshua D. Woods

Church of the Nazarene in Havre


Reader Comments(0)


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2021