I love hosting and going to Christmas parties. It’s a joy to put on a great spread and be sure that the guests enjoy a fine feast of food and drink. It’s an equal pleasure to visit a house and receive the same, although proper etiquette and maybe a guilty fear of being empty-handed requires a bottle or some fine present for the host.
Giving is the theme for Christmas we are told. Not a bad theme for a narcissistic society like ours. As soon as we graduate from diapers, teachers, parents, and pastors instruct us, “It is better to give than receive.” Certainly giving a gift pumps up the giver. It should. Giving is an attribute of the Creator. It should be natural to those made in His image. Yet, since the fall, we have skewed this inclination. We give to gain power. We give to look good. We give in hopes of receiving back: karma. We give out of guilt for receiving. We give hoping to make up for our taking, maybe even our sins. If you want, you can calculate the exact motivations for giving every instance you do it. But you will be exhausted, defeated, or filled with a shallow pride. Our giving is tainted. Stop dissecting it.
If Christmas celebrates the birth of our Savior, God becoming man, what in the heaven’s name do you bring Him? What does He possibly need? Oh, I know. You have been instructed by some of those same well-meaning pastors and parents that Jesus just wants your heart. He just wants my heart? What does that even mean? That doesn’t sound like a ‘just’ but perhaps the most difficult gift to give! He wants my whole attention, my whole love, my whole adoration or worship? How about a check for the stained glass windows. That would be easier.
What a cruel commandment. It may be why some stay away from Jesus on Christmas. He’s a demanding host, isn’t he? Oh, He has every right to be demanding, Creator of the universe and all. But if I have trouble getting the perfect gift for my wife, how in the world will I make Jesus happy? I can’t even give her my heart. It’s cut in so many pieces, I don’t even know where it is half of the time.
But this might be the strangest Christmas party you have ever attended. For the honored host doesn’t demand anything from His guests. If you believe you have nothing to offer this King, you are right. If you believe you are unable to truly and fully hand over anything to this God, you are correct. But that’s precisely why you have been invited.
You don’t need to bring anything. In fact, you can bring the opposite to His party. You can bring your garbage, your guilt and shame you hide in the closet, your doubts, your nightmares, your lusts, your greed, your murder and jealousies. Come as you are, really.
In fact, He doesn’t even wait for you to come, He comes and finds you and literally carries you to His party. He’s going to have a party, doggone it, and it’s going to be full of His strange empty handed friends.
At this Christmas party, it is absolutely not better to give than to receive! At Jesus’ party it is far far better to receive than to give. For the host has provided the water and the wine, the entree and the cake. He loves to give to those who have absolutely nothing to give back. All your garbage He has taken, no questions asked, and He has buried them infinitely far from you. You are forgiven. You will rise again. Give your thankful gifts to someone else. They need them, not Jesus.
Sit at His table, guilt free. Wine and dine and don’t worry about tomorrow. This party is free and for all. Merry Christmas. Come empty handed, leave filled and overflowing. And your heart? Here’s a new one.