A Receiving Spirit

So how do you foster a receiving spirit in this Season of Giving? By nature, our consumer-driven society are not ordinarily givers–at least not in the true sense. Oh, don’t get me wrong…all of us give to that small number of carefully-picked non-profits (including our church) each year. And this is definitely the season that our charitable giving jumps way up. Perhaps it’s the little bit of Santa in all of us; perhaps it’s the colder weather that makes us realize how fortunate we are to be warm and dry and comfortable and nested in the midst of those who love us when there are those that are cold and alone living right there with us; and (let’s face it) perhaps it’s part of our year-end tax planning–whatever it is that drives us to give, we’ll take it!

So, once again, how do you foster a receiving spirit in this Season of Giving? If you’re really honest with yourself, giving is easier than receiving. Giving means that you are the one in control. Giving means that you are the one choosing what, how much, and even whether or not to give at all. But how well do we receive? How well do we let someone else choose the wrong style of decorative item for our home, spend way too much (or way too little) for our taste, or give a gift that we were not expecting and for which we had no reciprocating item to give. I’ve gotten better at that. I give what I can. Others do too! Things don’t have to even out. Give them that–that is a gift too!

Truthfully, this is the most incredible gift of this season–the lesson of receiving. Bishop William Willimon says that “This strange story tells us how to be receivers. The first word of the church, a people born out of so odd a nativity is that we are receivers before we are givers. Discipleship teaches us the art of seeing our lives as gifts. That’s tough, because I would rather see myself as a giver. I want power–to stand on my own, take charge, set things to right, perhaps to help those who have nothing. I don’t like picturing myself as dependent, needy, empty-handed.”[i] But, once again, wasn’t that how God came that night–dependent, needy, empty-handed? God came as a helpless, vulnerable baby to show us how to receive what the world offers and when we enter that paradoxical mystery, we will find and receive what God offers.

So go forth and receive in humility and vulnerability and immense grace! That is the greatest gift you can give!

Grace and Peace,

[i] William Willimon, “The God We Hardly Knew”, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, (Plough Publishing, 2001), Dec. 14.

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