The Art of Receiving

Posted on: February 10, 2021, by :

It’s the Christmas season and all over the world people are having exactly the same conversation: we sent them a card last year but they didn’t send us one, so we probably shouldn’t send them one this year; unless they send us one because we sent them one, in which case we should. But if we do send them one and they don’t send us one that will make them feel like they should send us one, so perhaps we shouldn’t. Or should we?

Yes, it’s that time of year: when the season of peace and joy brings with it an increased risk of road trauma as more people drive under the influence of alcohol, a higher incidence of domestic violence, rising rates of stress and depression, etc. etc.  Has something gone wrong with our world?  It’s a time of year when even healthy, well-balanced people are prone to feeling hassled and under pressure as they enter the frenetic rush of Christmas shopping, Christmas eating and drinking, Christmas deadlines and Christmas expectations.  And this year may prove more frenetic and more pressured than most as we are released from COVID constraints and invited, perhaps urged, to jump headfirst into the hustle and bustle of Christmas sales and Christmas engagements.

We readily celebrate the ‘giving’ dimension of Christmas and even affirm that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’, but it is this culture of giving that creates so much of the stress and busyness that has come to be associated with the season.  I wouldn’t want to be heard as advocating a Scrooge-like reversal toward mean-spiritedness and limited generosity.  But I do want to be heard as advocating that Christmas just might be more about ‘receiving’ than about giving. And on this third Sunday of Advent we are invited to simply sit back, relax and Receive.

After all, the central act of the Christmas story is the gift of a child to Mary and Joseph, a gift that threatened to disrupt their lives and create turmoil in their relationship, but that unexpectedly brought them, and the world into which he was born, hope, peace, love and joy.  And all they had to do was sit back and receive the gift.

I wonder if we have lost the art of receiving?  We tend to receive with a sense of obligation, so the greater the gift, the heavier the burden of reciprocity.  We tend to receive in passing – a slightly embarrassed but polite ‘thank you’ before jumping into the next act of giving, or the next serve of pudding.  

On the third Sunday of Advent we are invited to simply Receive.  To sit back and allow the grace and generosity of God to flow over us and around us and through us.  To learn again that there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us less, and that God’s gift of grace and generosity needs no reciprocal gift, save the response of love for all Creation and for all people.  Perhaps this week is the opportunity you need to let go of the hustle and bustle, even if only for a day or a week, and create space to receive what this wonderful season has to offer.  Pay attention to the songs of Christmas as you hear them on radio, in shops and online; look for and celebrate the acts of goodwill that inevitably erupt in this mystical season; seek out an online daily Advent reflection to help keep you focussed on the themes of Christmas; take a walk around the streets to enjoy the Christmas lights, or in the bush to open yourself to the wonder of creation. The gifts of Christmas include Hope, Peace, Love and Joy – and they are accessible to us if we but create the space in the busyness to receive them!

David Brooker

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