"He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him."
The first thing that comes to mind when I read this verse is the general feeling of being rejected, which is pretty awful. The more you love someone, the more devastating that rejection can be... and here Jesus was, going to his own chosen people, and he wasn't accepted.
What makes it particularly astounding is the fact that Jesus was coming to the people who had long awaited his arrival. They yearned for him over centuries. They hungered for him to save them. And yet when he arrived, they cast him off.
There's a lot of yearning going on in my house right now. With a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, everything at the moment revolves around Santa. My kids are excited about the Christmas season, but don't let the cookie making or Advent calendar countdown fool you; they are laser-focused on presents. We don't go very long without some conversation involving Santa and what he has in store for the Murphy kids this year.
If they woke up on Christmas morning and saw no presents under the tree, but instead found a simple note from Santa, telling them that they were loved and cherished, that he would always keep them in his heart, and that they had the power to always be satisfied and content by just believing in him... how would they feel? I'd like to think that would be enough to warm their little souls and bring them comfort and warmth in the days ahead, but I know better. They would be AMAZINGLY disappointed! So disappointed, in fact, that I imagine the letter might go right in the trash, and Santa could be rejected completely.
When I think about Jesus's community rejecting him, despite their longing for him over so many years, I realize that maybe he wasn't exactly the "king of kings" they were expecting, or the "lord of lords" they thought they deserved. They wanted bounty, security, and power. That's not what Jesus would bring to them. He would bring them love. And while that's something significant ("the greatest of these" gifts, as Paul would say), if it's not what you are expecting, you can misread it, you can be disappointed in it, and you can reject it.
There are times when I should have my heart open to love, and I don't. I'm not in the mood to talk with the elderly lady chatting away on the subway platform, so I stick my headphones in. I need to get through my emails, so I don't play the board game my kids ask me to join. I'm too busy with a work project, so I ignore the call coming in from a friend.
It may seem crazy to contemplate that people rejected the Messiah. But many of us have moments when we ourselves reject him by not opening our hearts and accepting the simple gift of love. I, for one, will try to be better at accepting it as the gift that it is, in all its forms.