During the Christmas season I have often heard the words, “It is better to give than to receive.” This began in my childhood as my parents attempted to instill in my heart a charitable instinct which they hoped would overcome the greedy desires which so often crop up at Christmastime, and I believe they succeeded. For most of my life I’ve been more occupied by which gifts I would bestow upon my loved ones than interested in what they might give to me. I tried to teach my own children about the joy of giving as we contributed to Secret Santa efforts throughout our community and planned gifts for loved ones and family members.
There is definite joy in giving. The words quoted above paraphrase the scripture found in Acts 20:35, and while I do not wish to contradict that sentiment, nor to detract from that joyful tradition, I will go out on a limb this year and challenge each person who reads my message to forget for a moment the joy of giving and instead, concentrate on the joy of receiving.
Receiving has been given a very bad reputation. It connotes gluttony or selfishness. But if I reference that scripture in Acts, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” my thought process responds, “It is not possible to truly give unless there is one who will receive,” which leads me further to think of the many times Christ has instructed us to receive… receive his words… receive his healing… receive Him…
What does it mean to receive as Christ has asked? And what gifts should we seek to receive this holiday season?
“He who hath ears to hear…” (Matthew 11: 15)
Christ repeated this phrase more than once as He preached his gospel among the Jewish people. The intent of these words was a simple revelation that Christ knew some would reject that gospel and others would receive it with gladness. Those same words are true today even among those who believe in and follow our Savior. We who follow Him experience shifting levels in our ability to recognize truth and accept the promptings of the Holy Ghost. There are times when our lives are more circumspect, when we are in tune to the Spirit, and when we walk daily with the Lord. In those moments, spiritual knowledge is given to us and recognized in our hearts and minds as truth.
Other times we are distracted by the stresses of everyday living, spending a great deal of time on schoolwork or at our jobs, and not taking time to commune with the Spirit. Sometimes a rift is formed not of our own volition but because we are overwhelmed by feelings of sadness or depression, addictions, or unexpected loss. Perhaps, during the month in which we celebrate Christ’s birth, we can take time to tune our ears and use them not just to hear the word of God, but to receive it. And in receiving, perhaps we can take it a step further and ask how we are to use the gospel truths we receive to strengthen ourselves and our loved ones.
“…and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14)
Often we think of healing in a physical context, and there have been miraculous stories told of healings by Christ, himself, and also of healings by priesthood and faith in the present day. But I believe it is more important to accept the spiritual healing offered us by the Savior. Those healed physical bodies will one day succumb to illness or age or accident and become separated from the spirit that inhabits them because that is what happens to every person at some point in their mortal lives. But spiritual healing becomes a part of our eternal beings. It is made possible because Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins, our sorrows, and our deficits.
As I ponder what this means to me, I’m overwhelmed by the infinite nature of such an act. Somehow, through a process I cannot comprehend, Christ felt the pain and suffering of every person born. When I put this in personal context it means this: Christ not only felt the terror and agony I experienced in the moment and aftermath of rape, but He felt every feeling experienced by the person who raped me. Christ is the advocate both of the victim and the oppressor. He understands personally how it feels to be the abused and the abuser. This is crucial to the scope of the atonement because it offers healing and forgiveness to all. And when my soul cries out that I don’t want the person who harmed me to have the same blessings as I receive, myself, the atonement steps in and helps me heal one more time.
Perhaps, during the month in which we celebrate Christ’s birth, we can seek healing from the One who offers it constantly and consistently. And in receiving that healing, perhaps we can seek greater love for our fellowman, forgiveness for our own sins and shortcomings, and gain greater appreciation for our Savior as we receive His infinite gift.
“For unto us a child is born…” (Isaiah 9:6)
Christ was born; he was given by our Heavenly Father, and subsequently by Himself, exclusively for the benefit of mankind—in essence, He is our gift. The only part of that gift we must mandatorily receive is that because of Christ’s resurrection, all who live will be reunited with glorified bodies at some point. That’s a freebee—we get it no matter what.
“…and his name shall be called Wonderful…” Because we ought to be filled with wonder when we see all that He offers and asks us to receive. Because of Christ, all mankind will live again, can be healed of physical and spiritual pain, and can receive eternal life.
“…Counselor…” Because He can instruct us in matters large and small, and He understands our insecurities and loneliness, and can guide us to people who can strengthen us. Because Christ knows what it feels like to live in humble circumstances, and has experienced hunger and temptation. Because he alone, understands each one of us—the Savior knew us before we were born, He felt all that we have and will experience, and He knows the scope of our power and potential. He can counsel and guide us in any situation.
“…The Mighty God…” Because He, under the direction and guidance of our Heavenly Father, created a beautiful world for us, provided us with physical necessities and spiritual laws and guidance. Christ does not interfere with our agency but continues to walk with us we allow Him. He is responsible for our very lives.
“The Everlasting Father…” Because He suffered for the sins of every person so that they might repent and return unto Him. With His blood Christ purchased our souls and became our Father. His love for his children is unconditional and constant. He weeps for their sadness, delights in their triumphs, and longs for their companionship.
“The Prince of Peace…” Because there is no other source by which we might obtain peace to our souls. As He fills our lives with love, forgiveness, healing, and joy, we experience peace and security and comfort.
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”