Have you ever had the experience of being hurt by how someone responded to a gift that you had given him or her? Perhaps this person opened your gift, looked at it and realized it was not what he or she wanted, quickly putting it aside and never showing interest in it again. Such a reaction would understandably be painful for any gift giver. If we are honest, we have probably each been on both sides of this gift-exchanging scenario. It is easy to build up expectations about a gift we want to receive and then be disappointed when what we open is not the gift we had in mind. While it true that "It is more blessed to give, than to receive" (Acts 20:35), it is also true that one of the real blessings and gifts we can give to others is to be a good receiver of gifts, appreciating the other person's effort and intent to bring happiness.
As you receive gifts this Christmas, take the opportunity to practice being a good receiver. Show genuine interest in the gift and be curious about how or why the giver chose this gift for you. Receiving a gift this way will mean so much to the giver and ultimately to you as well. It will be as much of a gift for them as the gift they have given you is for you.
Extending this idea of receiving gifts, why not practice becoming more intentional about receiving the non-material gifts that you have been given as well? Your friends, each member of your family, your colleagues, and your neighbors are all gifts that you have been given by God. What if you were to think this coming week about each person in your life as a gift you are receiving from God, as if they contained a spark of God's divinity within them? How would you treat them then?
It is all too easy to receive a gift, whether a material gift or the gift of someone's presence in our lives, in a mindless manner. In both cases, if we are not careful, we may not give adequate attention to the gift or we may take it for granted, hurting the giver in the process.
Whatever gifts we have may or may not be given this Christmas, we all have been given the most important gift of all, the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Word made flesh. As with all gifts, this gift needs to be opened and received with mindfulness and loving attention. To do otherwise would hurt God, the giver of this and all gifts, as well as diminish the full potential for transformation of our lives that this gift offers.
Each week this wellness column focuses on the choices we can make to be well and to whole. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is a time to not just on our choices, but on the most important choice of all, the choice that God has made to become fully incarnate in our lives. Making room in the inn of our own hearts to receive this gift from God with gratitude and appreciation is the true foundation for all wellness and wholeness.
**This is the last weekly column before Christmas, and so our Living Compass team would like to wish each of you a most wonderful and Holy Christmas.