Christmas has always been a time of surprises and thus was the case at our house one Christmas season.
One morning we awoke to find a fuchsia flock of three dozen plastic flamingos meandering around on our front lawn. My wife has always prided herself in presenting tasteful decorations both inside and out so the sight of a potential Griswald Christmas palace sent her into a state of shock.
You see our church youth group had developed a pretty successful scheme to raise money during the holiday season. The idea was to “flock” a family with the colorful trailer trash version of the more popular tropical birds and hold that family captive until a “ransom” of a predetermined amount was paid to the youth group. Once the ransom was paid, the embarrassed family could then designate the next “lucky” household to be flocked. A full two weeks after the stationary stilt legged wonders appeared, they disappeared just as mysteriously. Our daughter sheepishly admitted to honoring us with their presence; fortunately, my wife has a great memory and we have all the time in the world for the eventual “turnabout is fair play”…
But God has always been in the surprise business, even before the first Christmas was celebrated. For example, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was “chosen” and was going to have a child even though she was still a virgin. Talk about a scripted dialogue as she announced to Joseph what was about to come to pass. And of course Joseph got all bent out of shape and thought of divorcing her before “SURPRISE!”, an angel came to him in a dream and basically told him to put his big boy pants on; this was of God…straighten up and do the right thing! And then there were the shepherds, just minding their own business as well as their sheep when “SURPRISE!”, an angel came to announce the Christ child’s birth…along with a multitude of heavenly hosts. Talk about a “Depends” moment!
Thinking back though, it should not have been a surprise to anyone since Christ’s birth was prophesied in Isaiah about seven hundred years before the event. John 3:16-17 NKJV says,16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. What an ultimate gift, humans!! And yet, we go through our lives many times as if nothing had ever happened over two thousand years ago or that in our oh so near future a bigger event WILL take place. James 5:7-9 NIV states, 7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! This doesn’t mean we need to cower down in a corner somewhere, afraid to live out the life that God has mapped out for us. It just means, like making all the preparations for Christmas Day that we make preparations for Christ’s second and final arrival.
Are you ready? December 25th comes around once every year and still folks scramble about as if it is a grand surprise on their calendar. And while we keep an extra gift card tucked away just in case we have an unexpected guest, a $25.00 Big Lots gift card just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to Jesus’ triumphant return. Just sayin…So as you gather this Christmas with your own “flock” of family and friends, just remember that it is better to be surprised by the ugly sweater from aunt Betty than to be unprepared for eternity.