Image: Christmas Gift Stock Photo, by thephotoholic, image ID: 100116592 www.freedigitalphotos.net
I am sure all of us have at least one of those unusual gift givers in the family. You know who I mean, that odd aunt, uncle, or cousin that gets everyone the most outlandish gifts that can fit under the evergreen. We spend the days and hours before Christmas morning contemplating what in the world could possibly be in that package. Sometimes, however, those unexpected things can turn out to be practical, or even indispensable. The entire world once experienced the reception of a gift so unorthodox, it caught almost everyone off guard. As we look back at the first Christmas, we now know this is the singular gift that was and is absolutely necessary for mankind.
The first big surprise actually came to Zechariah and Elizabeth directly from Gabriel, one of the few named angels in the scriptures. Their son John would be the Messianic front runner; preparing the hearts of the people to receive their Savior. This was especially significant because like Abraham and Sarah, they were past normal child bearing years so we see that the miracles associated with Jesus’ birth encompassed a larger field than just Mary and Joseph. Similarly, this announcement was also met with skepticism from one part of the couple but the roles were reversed – Zechariah doubted just like Sarah did so many years before.
Next of course I need to mention Mary and Joseph. Gabriel’s proclamation was quite a shock for Mary. Considering the cultural repercussions facing a pregnant, betrothed teen ager in that time and place, she exhibited a great deal of courage along with being highly favored by God. I am confident that her strength of character was in fact one of the reasons that she was favored. The news was no less of a bombshell for Joseph. Probably contrary to the popular culture of the day, his character was displayed in the discreet manner that he wished to handle a divorce. Thankfully, the Lord intervened through an angel to keep the engagement secure.
I would like to take a moment here to mention two particular people who were not blindsided by the arrival of God on earth. Luke 2:25 - 38 introduce us to Simeon and Anna, a prophet and prophetess who were actively praying and seeking the Lord. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit they meet Joseph, Mary, and Jesus at the temple and proclaim the arrival of the Savior. The important lesson to be learned here is that those who are in tune with the Spirit of the Lord are quite often overwhelmed by His grace and love, but are rarely if ever caught off guard.
In the eyes of God, it was the perfect time to come into the world.
I cannot forget to mention the shock that King Herod received from the arrival of the magi. Of course, his surprise was for a completely different reason. After all, he was the appointed leader of Israel, not some tiny, cry-baby royal wannabe. The news of a newly arrived deliverer unfortunately acquired the same tragic result that occurred when the previous one, Moses, arrived on the scene.
The magi from the east also deserve a mention at this point. But why, you may ask, after all they studied the heavens, had access to many ancient writings including the Hebrew Scriptures. They even knew the significance of the star of the new-born king. But as we see in the account recorded in Matthew 2, even the wisest of people can be in for a surprise. Armed with the knowledge that they were seeking a king; they naturally went to the capital of Israel and presented their inquiry before the current leader, in this case King Herod. One can only imagine their amazement when they were re-directed to the back-water little town of Bethlehem. In the unlikeliest of places they found the object of their long search - the child King of kings.
So the next time you unwrap that one weird present and wonder what in the world you are going to do with that, remember that the world once faced this same dilemma. In the eyes of God, it was the perfect time to come into the world. Sometimes the best gifts are the one that catch us by surprise. God, in His infinite love, wisdom and grace, knew that the only one that could pay for our sin and appease His wrath was Himself. When we receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus by believing in His death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin, no other gift can ever compare. God specializes in the unexpected, and it is always for our best.
John Clark is a husband to Julie, a father of one son living in Valrico, Florida. He has an Associate Degree of Theology from Life Christian University, and serves at Life Center of Brandon where he is a teacher and writer.