I can’t think of any more terrifying word to a pastor in December than ‘surprise.’ We’d prefer not to be surprised this month, thank you very much. But I suspect that this is also the case for people of most walks of life. Our schedules are jam-packed; there are cards to mail, trips to plan, events to attend, gifts to buy, forms to submit, and a seemingly endless number of other tasks to attend to before New Year’s Eve. There’s precious little time or energy left for dealing with any surprises that might come our way. The result is that many of us who’ve reached an age of responsibility have learned to fear (or perhaps even dread) surprises.
But, we might do well to recall that the Bible is clear that our God is a God of surprises.
Abraham and Sarah were told to leave their home and kindred and go to a ‘land that I will show you.’ In other words, it’ll be a surprise.
God called to Moses out of a burning bush to bring good news of the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery and – surprise! – you’re the one who will go and tell Pharaoh.
The angel Gabriel visited Mary, who was told that she had found favor with God and that she would bear a son despite not being married. Surprise!
Shepherds were watching their flocks by night, when – surprise! – the angel of the Lord appeared before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them – and they were terrified.
We should remember that God loves surprises. In fact, God’s most profound and consequential acts in human history have come as surprises to those who were busy living their lives, men and women, some were older, some were at work, some were young. Almost all of them didn’t feel up to the job, but were given words of encouragement along with the promise of God’s presence along their way.
The surprises that come our way this month (and they will come) may not be as profound or history-making, but consider for a moment that they very well might. Our God is a God of surprises and I think we can all agree that our world right now could use God’s intervention. With that in mind, I’m going to be working on my attitude about surprises this month. No matter what they look like at first, I’m going to try and treat them as a gift from God with ramifications beyond my immediate vision and circumstances – a Christmas present – in the many rich meanings of those words. May you be so blessed this month!