Yes, you read that right. There are many ways to commemorate Christmas, and giving gifts has become one of the most popular traditions of the season. But as I think about the nativity story chronicling the birth of Christ Jesus, it seems to me there was a lot of receiving going on. God was the giver, and every character in that simple story was engaged, probably more than most, in receiving: a message, direction, healing.
For instance, Mary received a visit from an angel, telling her she – a virgin – would have a son. She took in this news with amazing composure. She readily accepted this as God’s will for her, as unusual and even daunting as it may have seemed.
Shepherds received with joy the news that a savior had been born, and followed the star to the manger in Bethlehem. They came offering their adoration, which we might imagine Mary and Joseph received with a bit of wonder.
It seems like everyone in the story was being asked to accept the goodness of God, Spirit. This good was, in each case, simple and at the same time remarkable. It involved setting aside the ordinary, the mundane, and letting in something sacred, divine.
And isn’t that something we could all use more of in our lives? Qualities like stillness, hope, compassion, gratitude have their source in divine Love, and as we express these qualities, we’re living our authentically spiritual nature as God’s own spiritual creation. These gleams of divine goodness are evidence of the ever-present Christ, God’s message of infinite love for all. Author Mary Baker Eddy once described Christmas as “…the dawn of divine Love breaking upon the gloom of matter and evil with the glory of infinite being” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 262). Are we prepared to receive the Christ? What a glorious way to experience Christmas!
When we receive something, we’re not responsible for creating the gift ourselves. That role belongs to the giver. We’re just required to be open. To be humble enough to allow something to be done for us or given to us. Pride or cynicism would close that mental door of receptivity. Looking to “things” as the source of happiness or completeness would distract us from the value of the gift of God’s infinite goodness. But because we are inherently spiritual, made in the image and likeness of divine Spirit, we have a natural capacity to discern the reality of good. It’s how we’re made.
I’ve found that the Bible, and especially the teachings of Christ Jesus, help with this. For instance, Eddy once wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” referring to Jesus: “His senses drank in the spiritual evidence of health, holiness, and life;...” (p. 52). Jesus “drank in,” received, goodness. He understood that good from God is constant, and that we are all worthy to receive it.
And he showed us that we have constant opportunities to receive blessings if we open our hearts to the good God is offering us. As our hearts awaken to the truth of what we are as the very reflection of God – the truth that Jesus taught and that Christmas commemorates – we find ourselves more ready to recognize and accept the good God is imparting. We may be like Mary and immediately accept it. Or we may gradually grow to accept it. The thing to remember is simply that it’s there. The “dawn of divine Love” in our thought is our Christmas gift – to receive with joy during the holidays, and anytime!