By Pastor Paula Burchill
Christmas seems like it has long since come and gone, but every year I’m struck with how different families can be with gift giving, and I’m wondering if any of you can relate.
My husband’s family are list makers all the way. Nana starts asking for our lists in November, and chooses directly from the list. When I grew up, lists were taboo. Christmas Eve [when we opened gifts] would be a big surprise, and the anticipation grew as we poked and prodded our presents under the tree.
But there was always a big chance of disappointment with the Lund method. You know, getting something you knew you would never use or clothes you didn’t like. It seemed like the disappointment grew as I grew. But there was always the chance that you would be surprised and end up getting something so awesome that you never would have thought to ask for—and there isn’t a better feeling than that.
It seems I get disappointed more often than not, though, I’m embarrassed to say, and so I have grown to love the Burchill method. It is nice to get what you want, need and asked for. Sure, it is a bit of a letdown when there are no surprises, but there is also a lot less of a chance of re-gifting.
It is funny how either “method” can be disappointing for me, and it got me thinking about being a good receiver. We all probably know the saying, it is more blessed to give than to receive. That is a saying I have always taken to heart, but lately it has been occurring to me that both are blessings. Giving is a blessing, but so is receiving, and I wonder if sometimes we forget that.
When my kids were younger, they would be overjoyed with every present. Running around the room and hugging whoever gave them whatever new plastic toy. I must have been like that too. But now I seem to have attached so much baggage to receiving that it makes it hard.
I want it on my terms. I want people to read my mind and just know what I want. I want to receive when it is convenient. And this isn’t really fair of me at all.
My dear friend has recently completed cancer treatments, and her grace in receiving has been amazing. Meals, help with kids, cleaning—she has received these with grace. And who wouldn’t? But what has truly amazed me is how she has received awkward texts, people saying things that weren’t all that helpful, or people coming over and staying a bit too long. Somehow she has been able to receive those with grace as well. She told me, “If someone is willing to put herself out there for me, then I’m just going to assume they mean it in the very best way.”
Oh, to have a heart like she does!
It is hard to be a good receiver and I wonder if for Northwesterners it is even harder. We seem to be almost hard-wired for independence and an I can do, without your help attitude. I will give help until the cows come home, but receiving? Well, that is a LOT harder. This is great in many ways, but frankly, I wonder if it is all that great for community.
I have come to believe that if we want to truly be in community with each other, we might need to learn to be better receivers. Because when we receive, we are allowing someone the blessing of giving. And when we receive without judgment, we are showing love.
That is the root of my Christmas problem. I get too judgy about who gave what—do they even know me? Don’t they know I don’t wear perfume or don’t like the color yellow? Whatever it is, I make it about me and sometimes I think we just have to receive because that is what friends and neighbors and the body of Christ do.
We see that we are in this together. We look at each other with grace. We know that we need to both give and receive. Even Jesus received hospitality and meals and awkward questions from his friends. And in doing that, he allowed them the chance to give.
Because sometimes it is just as blessed to receive as it is to give.