“Surprise, surprise, surprise!” - the immortal words of Gomer Pyle. In the package of a country bumpkin there was an amazing surprise. Johnny Carson discovered it and revealed it to the world on his program. Jim Nabors was invited to sing on Johnny’s show. When he opened his mouth to sing the whole listening audience was surprised and amazed.
When was the last time you were surprised? Some turn of good fortune? Extraordinary service at a business establishment? A political development that caught you off guard? The surprise visit of a friend or relative?
Advent is one big surprise for those who were involved: Mary, as she was told she would give birth to the Son of God; Joseph, as he was told his beloved was pregnant; the shepherds as they experienced an angel chorus; Mary and Joseph, while Mary gave birth in a stable; a majestic, new star that appeared to guide wise men to the Christ Child.
O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!
“A thrill of hope …” I ask again, when was the last you were surprised – surprised by God’s gracious presence in your life? It is too easy to go through Advent with the attitude of “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” It is too easy to see Advent as a prelude to Christmas morning with its traditions, and presents, and family time.
It seems that each of the characters in the Nativity story were open to embracing the surprise. Most notably were the shepherds. Minding their own business, tending their flocks, they were visited by angels. Their response was to go immediately and investigate this thing that they had seen and heard. They received the surprise and allowed it to capture their attention and action. The text in Luke says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let’s go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place… .”
Surprise, surprise, surprise – the gift of hope comes wrapped in the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ – “the night of our dear Savior’s birth.”
Surprise, surprise, surprise – God came into the world for you – “the soul felt its worth.”
Surprise, surprise, surprise – The Christ Child still comes to the waiting heart – “Fall on your
knees; O hear the Angel voices!”
May these next several weeks find you surprised once again by God’s willingness to come and dwell with you, bringing grace and truth and wonder.