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Receiving God’s gift

Have you ever asked yourself why you give gifts at Christmas, for birthdays, and on other special occasions? You might want to spend time reflecting on your answer – it could tell you some things about yourself.

My own reflections have led me to consider the word “present.” After all, this is the season of giving. The word has double meaning. It leads us to the notion that we make our very inner selves present to the persons who receive our gifts.

But is that what’s really happening when you give your gift to someone? How much of your self are you truly giving – your time and attention? Your commitment? Your energies? Or, are you giving your gift simply to discharge a duty, a social obligation?

When we begin to really delve into the answers to those questions we gain insight as to how much God is giving us – His inner life, His very self, to us – in His Christ child. It was a total self-giveaway, a total self-emptying into our very own humanity! And look at the conditions surrounding His self-emptying into us! Was it accompanied by trumpet blasts, fanfare, and a cosmic display of power and omnipotence? A sort of earthbound supernova? No, it was accomplished in silence, serenity and simplicity – in powerlessness.

Why? Why did God choose to come to us that way?

While you are reflecting on these things, “pondering on them in your heart” as Mary His mother did, you might also consider the idea that sometimes it is more blessed to receive than to give. I know we are often told “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus taught that. I suggest that there’s a paradox in His teaching ... because when you receive a gift you are giving honor and respect to the giver. You’re saying to the giver that you need their gift of love. We ought not suggest that we don’t need them. If we pay little attention to God’s gifts, what are we saying to Him?

This is our faith’s teaching to us – we cannot achieve, buy, merit, win or grasp our own salvation. We can only receive justification, sanctification and salvation from God who, out of unconditional love for us, wants to give it as a gift to us. The trick, however, is that we don’t have these gifts from God unless and until we receive them. Receiving requires humility – the humble recognition that we are in need of the gifts and cannot have them unless we receive them from the hands of our Tremendous Lover who loves us even though we may not love ourselves very much.

We are in the time of Christmas and New Year’s. It is a frightfully busy time of the year and all of us are in a frenzied pursuit of getting things done. Nevertheless, as you read these words at this very moment, you’ve taken a bit of time out to reflect. Why not give God, right here and now, a bit of quiet and silent time to reflect on these thoughts with Him ... and then, humbly, in the privacy of your own soul, receive His Christmas gift to you?