This week we continue our Advent sermon series, The Real Christmas Story, with “What does it mean to Receive?” We’ll be examining together some important words about receiving we find in the first chapter of John: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” In Luke 18:15-17 Jesus welcomed the little children, saying “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” [NRSV]. It is clear that receiving is a central part of our faith.
Taking a little closer look at Dr. Seuss’s fictitious little town of Whoville in his classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we find this idea of receiving in the Whos’ understanding that both giving and receiving go far beyond the giving and receiving of gifts. The Grinch, you may remember, assumed that Christmas was all about what they were planning and getting — all the preparations, gifts, wrapping, and decorations — and then (spoiler alert!) ultimately realizes that Christmas is about something else altogether. There was no “stealing” Christmas. He could not stop it from coming. It was about something much more profound, much deeper than the obvious trappings. Despite the Grinch’s best efforts, Christmas came anyway: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
A message that comes through in both these scriptures and in this beloved Christmas movie is an openness to receive whatever comes, rather than being locked into the pursuit of particular things. If we look again at The Real Christmas Story, we see that Mary is the greatest example of this kind of receptivity there is. When the angel Gabriel appears to her, she responds with, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Mary did not set out pursuing something — she was simply open and receptive to God working in her life and through her life, without really knowing or understanding what all would come with it!
This Sunday is our annual Christmas Festival in which the The Christmas Story is retold and celebrated in word and music with choirs and orchestra. I look forward to worshipping with you Sunday as we receive anew the “tidings of great joy,” the Good News of the Advent of Jesus.
Grace and Peace,