When it is for someone else, that’s fine. I join in the laughter and good times. But when it is for me, I have different emotions. I like to plan things out ahead of time. I never go in to a meeting unprepared.
It’s not that I am a controlling personality, but I do like to have at least a good idea of what to expect.
With surprises, that is not possible. Surprises are sprung on you. They come out of the blue and there is no way to prepare. And for me, and perhaps many of you, this is uncomfortable.
You’d think I would be more used to surprises. After all, as a pastor I have been a student of the Scriptures for more years than I’d like to admit. And the Bible is full of surprises!
Christmas is a good example of that. The young girl Mary was taken by surprise with the news that she would have a son — not with Joseph, her betrothed, but by the Holy Spirit of God. Joseph, when he got the same news, was also surprised.
The shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem were also surprised by God’s announcement to them through the angels.
But what is really important, it seems to me, is that in all these “surprising stories,” the surprised ones responded well. They didn’t freak out — well, at least not too much.
Certainly there was astonishment and some confusion at first. But these people believed. They trusted. They obeyed.
I think we need more of that today — pure and simple faith to believe what God reveals to us. And believe me, he does reveal things to us. His presence is all around us. His Word is available to us.
The question for us is, can we see God’s hand at work in the world? Or are we too preoccupied with other things? Are we too interested in stuff — material things?
God is doing amazing things around us all the time, but if our hearts are not open to him, we will miss them.
The people who were surprised in the Christmas story were better prepared than many of us are to respond well to very anxious situations. Why? Because their hearts were attuned to spiritual things. When a message came from God, they heard it; whereas, we might miss it due to the fact that we have “more important” things to concentrate on — like the TV and the NFL, and shopping for cool stuff on the Internet or at the mall.
Christmas is a good time to reconnect with God. It is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on miracles that do happen, often in very surprising ways.
I hope you will go to church, as Christmas services can be very touching and inspiring.
And when you are at home some time, on a cold winter’s night, why not play some Christmas carols or listen to Handel’s Messiah and listen closely to the words — they are tremendous! Or, open that Bible that has been setting on the shelf to Luke 2 and Matthew 2.
In doing one or more of these things, I hope you experience the good news of God’s grace and love in a way that may surprise you with joy. Merry Christmas!
— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of Word of Hope Church in Fruitport