When the boys were little, they would wake in the wee hours of Christmas morning. Giggling with excited anticipation they would wait at the top of the stairs until my husband gave the all clear—meaning the lights had been turned on, the coffee pot set to brew, and the video camera poised at the ready—at which point they would descend in a great flurry of laughter and shoving and exclamation and hurry to the gifts and surprises that awaited.
It is not so any longer. Now Christmas morning finds my husband and I drinking cup after cup of coffee wondering when—or if—our young men will finally wake up. Instead of toys arranged in front of the fireplace there are wrapped gifts under the tree, gifts that have already been shaken and prodded and guessed at, gifts like clothes and shoes and books and video games, gifts expressly requested and expressly purchased. No real surprises here.
I miss the surprise and the anticipation and the frenzied fun of Christmas mornings long ago. Don’t get me wrong; it is indeed its own kind of joy to celebrate with grown children. Big joy. Good joy. Contented joy.
Ah, but who can forget the sheer unbridled delight of the two year old seeing his very own “Thinking Chair” (a la Blues Clues) in front of the tree on Christmas morning?
I miss it. There are so few surprises anymore. Just this week my friend and I discussed how gift giving has morphed into me giving you exactly what you ask for and vice versa. I understand the desire to give a gift that is wanted and appreciated but I tend to feel a little ridiculous. I mean, I could just buy my own gift and you yours and save ourselves the trouble of wrapping.
I know, I know. My Grinch-iness is showing.
It’s the thought that counts, of course it does. And as much of a Scrooge as I may be, I am happy to help potential gift givers with lists and links.
This past Wednesday at church we discussed the Incarnation, the mysterious surprise of God becoming man. Letting our imaginations take flight we pondered such questions as Jesus learning to walk and talk. Did He get in trouble at school? What about potty training? Can you imagine raising a sinless child? Or being His younger brother?
The Bible tells us that Jesus was ordinary enough that when He began His ministry in His hometown the residents were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” They were astonished. They had no clue. (Matt. 13:53-57) They had seen Him, they knew Him, but yet they hadn't and they didn't.
Here is the great astonishment, the great delight, the cosmic surprise of Christmas: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) The heart of the Christmas story is the astounding truth of the gospel: we need saving and God came to save us.
What mystery is this, God as man. What surprise, that God would condescend to empty Himself, take the form of a servant, and be born in the likeness of man. And what joy! Forgiveness, redemption, mercy, grace, all ours because of Jesus, because of Christmas.
And we who belong to Christ know the hope of our real life beyond this one, that fullness of joy in the presence of our God forever. We too anticipate a glorious morning when the light will break forth like the dawn and our hope finally becomes reality. Imagine our surprise then!
My Christmas may lack some of the frenetic fun we’ve enjoyed in years past. For some of you Christmas brings more grief than joy. I understand. But there is joy, good news of great joy—good news! great joy!—for unto us is born a Savior, Christ the Lord. Let us ponder Jesus this Christmas. Let us consider the mystery of the Incarnation. Let us wonder over the grace that goes to such measures to save to the uttermost. Let us be astonished and surprised by the joy of Christmas.