Christmas IS About What You Get
By Beth Demme
“Tis Better to Give Than Receive” – you’ve definitely heard it, and you’ve probably said it. It’s what we are supposed to think about gifting in general, but it is especially supposed to be our attitude at Christmas. Paul even tells us in Acts 20:35 that Jesus said it!
Giving instead of getting fits in well with American culture. We like to give because receiving requires humility. We may even feel like the person giving us a gift has something over us, or that we now owe them a gift in return. Have you ever had the awkward experience of a friend or neighbor unexpectedly showing up with a Christmas present for you when you have nothing to offer in return? Do you keep a few extra small gifts or baked goods on hand just in case?
Receiving can be uncomfortable for us.
Receiving when we can’t reciprocate with an equal gift can leave us wanting to jump out of our skin (in other words, really uncomfortable).
Giving, however, leaves us feeling happy. Giving generously can make us downright giddy. Last week I got to give a Christmas tree, complete with ornaments and star topper, to a family that didn’t have one. I had a big grin on my face the whole time I was shopping for them. As I chose the ornaments, I imagined the wonder on the faces of their young children as they saw the lights reflecting in the shiny orbs. I sang Christmas carols to myself as I drove the hour to deliver it. When I dropped it off I didn’t mind hauling the boxes and bags out of my car. And I sang even more loudly in my car on the way back!
Giving really is fun!
One of the reasons we are especially generous at Christmas is that we want to reflect the incredible gift of love that comes to us in Jesus. The love of God was so true and so unstoppable that God became incarnate, became human, to reach out to us.
Giving generously feels good and it’s a way to share the love of God. At Christmas, sharing the love of God typically means giving, not getting.
And yet, at Christmas aren’t we the ultimate recipients?
We know the joy, the fun, and the blessing of giving, but have we paused to ponder the blessing of receiving?
Will Willimon writes about this saying,
We prefer to think of ourselves as givers—powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people whose goodness motivates us to employ some of our power, competence and gifts to benefit the less fortunate. Which is a direct contradiction of the biblical account of the first Christmas. There we are portrayed not as the givers we wish we were but as the receivers we are. Luke and Matthew go to great lengths to demonstrate that we—with our power, generosity, competence and capabilities—had little to do with God’s work in Jesus. … We didn’t think of it, understand it or approve it. All we could do at Bethlehem was receive it.”
The impulse to give at Christmas is rooted in the truth that we are the ultimate recipients. But the impulse to give can also distract us from this truth. Christmas should remind us we are the recipients of God’s love, of God’s coming to us in an incredible, tangible and unexpected way.
It turns out Christmas really is about what we get and less about what we give.
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