In this season the concept of reception can move us in a couple of directions. Watching the game the guys are talking about the incredible reception the wide-receiver just made in the the tip-toe corner of the end-zone. Or, they may be commenting on the digital clarity of the new 75" HDTV, the best television reception they've ever seen. They could be griping about shutting everything down, missing the final quarter, and dressing up to attend the wedding reception for the wife's bosses sisters daughters nuptials. They could just as well be adjusting their radar for the look their sweetie will flash in their direction when they whine about it. You know, how their reception system translates what can only be defined as "the look". Then, there's the Advent wreath and candles, the weekly devotions and shift to the Christmas spirit, and our preparation to receive him this year. It's the reception thing from another angle.
Reception was an issue when Jesus was on earth and it's been an issue since as well. The people steeped in Jewish tradition couldn't accept Jesus as their promised Messiah. The Greeks and those with a philosophical bent struggled with his claims of a divine nature. Many people in that time recognized him as a holy man, a prophet or teacher, the Rabbi that spoke authoritative truth to them, a healer. In the main, however, there was a reception problem. They would not receive him as Messiah and Lord. John wrote about this issue as a recurring theme in the fourth Gospel---
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did
receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of
John 1:11-12, ESV
I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me.
John 5:43, ESV
This idea of reception is a key transition point as we enter the Christmas season. The anticipation of his coming in the flesh, his entrance to our lives daily, and the promise of his second coming are central concepts to our Christian faith. They direct us to the Gospel and God's eternal plan of redemption. Jesus clarified it when he spoke about those "who did receive him" (v. 11, above). He clarified the ideal of reception with the phrase "who believed in his name". This takes us back to the moment when an angel appeared to Joseph and announced the birth of of a son. Matthew recorded that particular conversation in this way---
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him
in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and
you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:20-21, ESV
The point of clarity is that biblical reception of Christ is believing in his name. And, that name is Jesus, a derivative of Yeshua, a Hebrew name actually means "God saves". Receiving Jesus in the most basic Scriptural sense is believing that he is the Savior of the world.
Why is this such a transition point for Christian moderns? it's simply that many proponents of pop religion today can't handle the idea of needing a Savior. Humans with a strong work ethic, especially those as self-indulgent as American religious types, have this salvation thing worked out without the need of one who has paid the ransom for our natural sinfulness. In the most basic way our reception problem is that we resist the total depravity of man and believer we can properly relate to the Father on our own terms. We can easily receive him as a life model, teacher of truth, a prophet we should emulate, and a guide through the complications and difficulties of life. But, sophisticated and learned humans resist the need for a Savior.
Making this transition in contemporary life presupposes several important facets---
1. Humans by nature are fallen and therefore distant from God.
2. We cannot save ourselves. This salvation is not of works lest any man should
boast (see Ephesians 2:9, ESV).
3. This salvation is God's gift, given through faith (see Ephesians 2:8, ESV).
4. This gift must be received (back to John 1:11-12, ESV).
5. Receiving him is accepting him as Savior and Lord. Paul wrote about this
reception in his letter to the church at Rome---
For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much
more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of
righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17, ESV
It is this connection between the manger and the cross that is the reception problem for so many believers as we enter this beloved Christmas season. That's one of the reasons we so desperately need this heart shift as we approach another Christmas. God's ultimate gift is the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, there is a heart shift that prepares us. We anticipate his coming. We must receive him as our Savior, the one who justifies us, who sanctifies us daily, and who will come again to glorify us forever.
That is clear reception.