“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6, NKJV
The Reason for the Season
We all know that Christmas is the season for giving. That giving is, of course, a reflection of the greatest gift of all, God’s Son, who was announced in the prophecy above, fulfilled in the Gospels (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16, NASB), and then explained in the Epistles (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8, NIV).
The idea of gifts and giving is woven throughout Scripture, where Paul, quoting Jesus, admonishes us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35, NASB.
Furthermore, our society reinforces the importance of giving with tales of stingy givers such as Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch who stole Christmas.
From the time we are little, we are taught the importance of giving. What is seldom emphasized is the importance of receiving!
The Opposite of Receiving is Rejecting
In sports we say, “The only thing worse than a poor loser, is a poor winner.” In the arena of giving, the only thing worse than a poor giver, is a poor receiver.
Consider the story of Jesus washing His disciples feet. At first, Peter attempts to reject Jesus’ act of service: “‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’” – John 13:8, NIV.
Oh, how true that is for all of us! How many lives are there yet, where Jesus stands at the ready, towel in hand, waiting to wash them whiter than snow, only to be rebuffed by the prideful claim, “You shall never wash me!”
To gain a glimpse of the sorrow this must bring to our Lord, reflect on a time when you have had a gift rejected by someone you cared about:
- Was it a physical gift?
- Was it an act of service that was rejected?
- What about unreturned friendship or affection?
But lest we become too prideful reminiscing about others, let us think of a time when we have rejected a gift ourselves:
- Did we have “a good reason” at the time?
- Does that reason hold up under the lens of hindsight?
- How big a role did pride play?
- Are the American ideals (idols?) of self-sufficiency and independence God- honoring? Can they be God honoring in the right context? Where do we draw the line?
Becoming a Good Receiver
We all know that a good giver gives generously, cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and often until it hurts (Mark 12:41-44). But what does it mean to be a good receiver?
There are FOUR things that are essential:
- A good receiver is HUMBLE.
It is a humbling thing to freely receive something from someone else, whether that someone else is a fellow human being or God Himself. It sometimes feels like weakness or neediness, but humility is always the starting point.
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves…” begins 2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV.
Likewise, it is only in humbly recognizing that “all have sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23, NET) that we acknowledge our need for a Savior.
Atheists will say, “God is for the weak.” To which we may respond, “Yes. Yes, He is, and thankfully so!”
- Do you know non-Christians who think that they are “good people?”
- Do they think that being good is “good enough?”
- As Christians, do our actions and attitudes sometimes reveal similar beliefs about ourselves as good people relying on good behavior for what is actually freely given Grace?
- A good receiver is THANKFUL.
The natural response to a gift should be gratitude.
- Have you ever seen a child or adult act ungratefully?
- Have we ever been guilty of doing the same?
- What about the gifts God bestows, are they simply taken for granted?
- What about the hard times that come our way, but cause us to grow? Are we thankful for our trials as well? (James 1:2-3)
- A good receiver actually USES the gift.
Nothing makes us happier than seeing our gifts to someone else being put to use. No doubt God feels the same way!
- Ever give a child a toy they just couldn’t stop playing with?
- Ever find last year’s gifts unused in a drawer?
- Are we using the gifts God has given us, or are they tucked away?
- A good receiver PAYS IT FORWARD.
When we have been blessed, it naturally makes us want to bless others. Even the most ruthless businessmen find themselves turning to philanthropy, as they grow older. Which takes us full circle, back to giving.
After Jesus finished washing the disciples feet, He told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” – John 13:14, NIV.
- What are some ways we have been blessed?
- What are some ways we can bless others?
- How can we creatively introduce others to the “fount of every blessing,” who stands at the ready, towel in hand, waiting to wash them whiter than snow?
As we celebrate Christmas again this week, we need to remember that this season isn’t all about giving. It’s about receiving, too. God’s priceless gift will profit you nothing until you accept it.
What about you? Have you received the best gift of all?