This is the first year I have taken full advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday for Christmas shopping. Sitting in the comfort of my home, saving up to fifty percent, and pairing it with free shipping, is my way to shop! It sure beats the traffic, dreary weather and waiting in long lines. I feel a little giddy whenever I hear the roar of the UPS truck pulling up to my curb. Almost every day during the last two weeks I have been sent packages from all over the U.S., which are then carried to my front porch by a man in brown. Each one feels like a gift to me, since I never had to leave the house to pick it out. Now, I will soon turn around, wrap and give these sent packages as gifts.
The Unexpected Sender
In the midst of the arrival of these sent packages, something unexpected occurred. I realized something. It then again appeared in a few unexpected, unsought after words. Often unbelievable and “too good to be true” type of things come to us like this– in unexpected ways.
But when the fullness of time arrived, God sent out His Son… Galatians 4:4
God sent out the best gift ever. And that gift reveals many unexpected things about the Sender.
A Pregnant Time
I have a good friend who is really pregnant right now, and could have her baby any day. I remember those days well as I carried my four boys– when I was so big and close to the due date, that I looked like I would pop if someone poked me! The days of anticipation, waiting, longing and even groaning are about to be fulfilled for my friend.
Christmas was that anticipated “due date.” The time foretold in the scriptures and through the prophets was being announced.
The fullness of time arrived.
There was a right time, an appropriate time, and a time God had ordained for this part of the story. It wasn’t some random time in history for God. It wasn’t a mistake, or an unfortunate event for Mary. The fulfillment unfolded at the completed time. It was a due date, which seemed long overdue for those waiting. Earth seemed to be pregnant for some time with the anticipation of the kingdom of heaven bursting onto earth. The due date was here.
And God does something unexpected with this expected time.
God sent out His Son. Often, I think the unexpected thing about Christmas is God coming in flesh as a baby. And that is very unexpected. But I think there is something else that is unexpected about Christmas.
The God who Sends
It has been said that what first comes to mind when we think about God is very telling of our picture of God. It gives us an idea of what we believe about God, and even what we might communicate to others about God.
Is it His control and power that comes to your mind? Or His justice, or maybe peace? Does He have a scowl or frown on His face? Or is His angry? Is He demanding or unpleased with you? Maybe you feel like He is just waiting for you to measure up and get your act together, or be more “spiritual” or good.
The twelve words,
But when the fullness of time arrived, God sent out His Son,
are packed with unexpected things about the God who sent Christmas. Christmas begins with God, because He is the One who “sent out” His Son. God is aware and He initiates. God steps out when time was at its due date, and God gives. He gives so that we might have life. This is foundational in His nature– God demonstrates His love through giving.
If we are honest, this may surprise us., that key in His character is gift-giving. Often, I think we can find more than enough reasons for God to withhold a gift like this from us. But even in our mess, He gives. This is unexpected.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Giving what we value most?
I think most of us can experience a certain amount of anxiety, fear or control when we have to give up or trust God with things that we highly value– be that our future, schedule, financial security, children, health or reputation. We guard these things, holding them closely. We are not so ready to share them with others or hand them over to God for “unknown” purposes. I have had my home and car in years past broken into several times. Each time I was faced with the question, “Can I let go of things I care so much about?”
God, on the other hand, gives, and He gives His very best– that which is most precious to Him. This is what a host of angels proclaim to a group of lowly shepherds. They understood– this was an extravagant gift God had sent out. His love is not a stingy sort of love. His gift is not found at the dollar section at Target, on Black Friday early in the morning, or on the clearance rack. No, His gift is costly. He demonstrates a generosity so outlandish that the gift, forgiveness and abundant life, seems too good to be true. Maybe that is why it is all too easy to settle for others things, and other “gods.” Christmas unexpectedly reveals a God so extravagant it should make us wonder, and make us stop. His abundance should cause the world to stand still and celebrate. Oh right, that is what the twenty-fifth is really for!
Showing the World the Unexpected
As I brought in a tiny box from my porch, it could have easily been overlooked as it sat hidden behind a fern. Christmas can be a little like this also: Jesus coming in a small package and easily overlooked. The graciousness of God, who sends the gift, can also be easily overlooked.
As I interact with my family and friends this Christmas, can I give them a picture of God that cannot be overlooked? For many in the world, God may seem absent or unengaged, a little more like the people who live in it. They may see harsh people, unwelcome to the homeless refuge. They see religious people take lives in the name of their god. They see the materialism and selfishness of Black Friday “Christmas” shopping posted online. But every day in conversation, on social media and with family during the holiday, I have a chance to reflect the lavish Sender and be a person who gives.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
The time was pregnant with anticipation but little did the world (or I) expect God to be such a loving, overflowing, giving, and excessively forgiving God. I want this to be the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about God.
Behind the gift is the One who gave everything so that we may live. Christmas tells the story of a very generous, giving God– a God radically different than the world expected. God sent out His Son and surprised us all with His lavish gift. And now, for some reason and unexpectedly, He sends us to be the bearer of this extravagant gift to the world. As people unwrap this gift we give, I hope they find God to be a little unexpected, a little “too good to be true.” This is what we are sent out to give– the unexpected.