The true meaning of Christmas: Receiving, not giving

The true meaning of Christmas: Receiving, not giving

By Brandon Comstock, Contributor | Posted - Dec. 23, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- No parent wants their child to be obsessed with getting Christmas presents.

The thought of greedy children complaining about a lack of sufficient gifts is enough to bring out the Grinch in any of us.

Perhaps that is why we try so hard to perpetuate the old saying, “It’s better to give, than it is to receive.”

It really is a great sentiment, and one that admittedly, even I have oft repeated. Yet, while I agree that focusing less on brightly wrapped presents and fancy new toys would help us all to catch the true meaning of Christmas, but when it comes to the old proverb, I have to disagree.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly something to be said for giving. Some of the happiest moments in life come from learning to put others before ourselves. But I believe the greatest joy is reserved for those who find a way, not only at Christmas, but year round, to receive.

After all, isn’t receiving Christ what Christmas is all about?

Unfortunately, like the inn keeper of old, finding room for Christ in our lives, especially at Christmas, can be a tough task.

If the inn keeper were here, it might be him who had perplexing questions for us.

If he were here today, I’d bet that inn keeper could tell a pretty good tale. I doubt his story would be as simple as “the mother of the son of God came knocking at my door, so I turned her away.”

No, instead he’d probably tell of a terribly busy day. “It was tax season, and the inn was full. There were guests to tend to, chores to be done, cleaning to do, and meals to prepare. Soon, in hustle and bustle of it all, an opportunity to receive (the mother of) God slipped by.” Sound familiar?

It probably should, because 2,000-plus years later, we face the same challenges. Amidst the pastries, parties, and present of the season it’s hard to find time for pondering on what really got it all started -- the birth of Christ.

Before long, we’re rushing through a reading of Luke 2 to get to the present opening, and wishing that Christmas had landed on any other day than Sunday, (since that means we have to go to church.)

In reality, if the inn keeper were here, it might be him who had perplexing questions for us. Perhaps raising an eyebrow at our actions toward the son of God as he asked, “Are you serious? How could you treat him like that?”

So, if this year you’re looking to have a Christ centered Christmas, the solution, though it may seem a little backward, is simple: focus a little less on the joy of giving, and a little more on the joy of receiving, and soon you’ll get your wish. For as the old Christmas hymn "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" promises, “Where meek souls will receive him, still, the dear Christ enters in.”

Brandon Comstock is an instructor of religion at Hurricane High School seminary. He and his wife have two little boys, and are expecting their third child in March.

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