“How do I receive Jesus as the most important gift of Christmas?”
Giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is a spiritual activity of the highest order. Gifts are an expression of our mutual love and support: they are the way the invisible becomes visible.
The most meaningful gifts I have received through the years have been those that have somehow joined my spirit with the spirit of the giver. Sometimes these are the most simple of gifts. What makes them special is that they are an expression of how well the giver understands me, and knows what I value. The gifts of the Magi, for instance, reveal that they truly knew who Jesus was.
No one knows and understands me better than God, and Jesus is the gift God offers me at Christmas. It is by far the most important gift I receive this day. It unites my spirit with God’s spirit. It fills me with the very spirit of God.
Jesus was born at the absolute darkest time of the year: at midnight during the winter solstice. And he becomes the light dispelling the darkness. Notice the important role that light plays in our Christmas stories, and in the scripture readings for Christmas. A few examples: the star leading the Magi;the night sky radiant with light as the angels appeared to the shepherds; the words of Isaiah: “A people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”; the Prologue of John’s Gospel proclaimed on Christmas Day in which Jesus is named the “Light that came into the darkness, and the darkness could not dispel it’; the lights on our Christmas trees and Christmas candles.
Jesus becomes God’s gift of light to me. And how badly I need that light. I often get caught up in the darkness and brokenness of my life: my sinfulness, my faults and failings, my broken dreams and unkept promises, as well as the darkness of the broken world around me. Yet God, who knows everything about me, sends Jesus to me this day to dispel that darkness and to fill me with the light of God’s love. Jesus becomes the light that overcomes the darkness in my life, and connects my spirit with God’s spirit. It is the light that joins me to all that is beautiful and joyous and full of wonder. It allows me to find my way through the darkness.
How do I receive this gift? First, by naming and embracing the darkness in my life. (Thus, the importance of spending time in the darkness through the Season of Advent, and not rushing the Christmas season). I receive the gift of Jesus by opening myself in prayer to God through community worship, contemplation, and acts of service to those in need. I receive God’s Spirit through uniting my spirit with others in giving and receiving meaningful gifts. I receive God’s gift of Jesus by offering radical hospitality during this Christmas Season, Singing Christmas carols wholeheartedly with others opens my soul to receive the light of Jesus. In other words, we receive the gift of Jesus at Christmas by CONNECTING with God, REACHING others, and BUILDING community.