Christmas! It is essentially about gift receiving. Yes, we give gifts out of the overflow of our gratitude, our love, sometimes even out of a sense of obligation, but receiving is more in keeping with the season. This is challenging to those of us in the Western world. We clock, we schedule, we do triage, we run ragged, we double-book, we live ‘a day late and a dollar short’ too often and leave little open space in between appointments and ‘next things.’ The concept of taking twelve days to learn to appreciate the gifts we’ve received staggers the imagination! We figure we don’t have that much time to ‘waste.’ We certainly don’t think of all those days thus spent as an investment! (The open space referred to above is more accurately, soul space. Our souls are not ‘Western.’ They are not clock watchers. They know nothing of hurry and ignoring their needs is done at our great peril). At Christmas we celebrate receiving Jesus, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. We are receiving Jesus, presently, at this very moment, on this fourth day of Christmas. We will continue receiving Jesus until the receiving of him is complete when we see him face to face, sated with joy, together with him for all eternity. Christmastide, this twelve-day period immediately following Advent is set aside to savor that receiving. It’s a bit like getting a 12-part gift, like flowers every month for a year, or a basket of seasonal fruit every month throughout the year, or a year’s subscription to a monthly book or magazine. The impact of these offerings cannot be fully evaluated until the year has ended. If this is true of these material gifts, how much more is this true of the gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, King of our hearts!
Perhaps a better example of multi-layered receiving is a mother bringing her firstborn home from the hospital. The season of pregnancy has ended with rather spectacular fanfare and is instantly followed by a lifelong ‘season’ of receiving this miraculous gift of a new life. The urgent needs of the newborn are noisily sounded. Feeding, changing, bathing the baby, is a 24/7 occupation, frequently making mom’s feeding, bathing, sleeping challenging. As the baby grows in independence, the receiving continues blossoming in not-always-delightful ways. Parents are constantly ‘learning’ their children, these fast-growing, too-soon-to-be-adult beings with individual personalities and strengths and weaknesses and talents. And children are finite beings! As we choose to make ourselves present to Jesus in this moment, this Christmas season, let’s permit ourselves the pure luxury of basking (do you bask?), marveling pressing in, savoring, this Gift that renders the chattiest among us mute in awe and wonder, like a child wide-eyed, mouth in a perfect ‘o’ at seeing the lights and ornaments on a Christmas tree. Let’s be little kids again! It’s just for eight more days! Maybe it’ll become a new habit. PD