They say everyone likes surprises. As the unfolding days of December provide a countdown to Christmas, thoughts of gifts are on the minds of many people – buying and receiving. These days, so many Christmas gifts are “ordered”, so receivers know exactly what they are going to get and the surprise element is taken away. Yet, many people still like to keep an element of surprise in the business of giving and receiving gifts.
Of course, there are many possible responses to surprises. Sometimes they delight us and bring us joy. Sometimes they are immediately recognised as being exactly what we don’t want, and we keep a fixed smile on our faces lest we cause offence!! If we know we are going to receive a gift but we don’t know what it is, there is always that surprise moment as we open it. What will our response be to the surprise?
The Festival of Christmas is, for Christians, about the real Christmas gift – God’s gift of Jesus. Messiah had been promised as God’s gift to his people for generation after generation. The people longed for his coming. Advent marks the story of the awaiting of this promised gift. As the candles are lit each Sunday of Advent, the Advent wreath tells first of the patriarchs of old; next the prophets and their message of a coming Messiah; next the message of John the Baptist, “prepare, the time is near”, and the excitement builds; next Mary becomes the focus and we know the gift is anytime now. Finally the Gift is given. Jesus is born. Surprise! Surprise! We can almost feel the anticipation of God as his precious gift is revealed and he awaits our response.
Is this the gift we were expecting? God’s people were expecting a king (like David). So, no doubt, they were expecting him to be born in a palace with attendants and the privileges of rank. They were expecting a powerful ruler, a warrior who would rid them of their enemies and bring prosperity and peace through the exercising of his power. Instead, they (we) got a child born in a lowly stable, far from home and utterly vulnerable. Surprise! Surprise
As the birth stories unfold, we are told that some people at least recognised the preciousness of the gift. Some shepherds and some wise men came and saw – and worshipped. Others simply ignored the gift. Some could simply not see the child as a gift from the Almighty – the all-powerful God. Some cannot see the power of God in weakness; cannot see the wealth in the poverty; the preciousness in the vulnerability and love. It proved to be so throughout the child’s life – even to his death on the Cross. And it remains so to this day. There are so many still who ignore the gift, or do not recognise how precious it is, or understand its meaning and significance.
Only faith reveals Jesus as the most precious and ultimate gift that God could give – his gift of love to the world he loves. It is in weakness that God’s power is revealed. It is through vulnerability that his purposes will be shown. It is through love that his victory will be achieved. All this revealed in the gift of this child – and so we have hope and joy to share, a real reason to celebrate. Surprise! Surprise!
With every blessing this Christmas time
On you, on your home, and all whom you love.
Fr Nigel Johnson Rector
Special Christmas Services
Sunday, 1st December 4.30 pm Christingle Service
Sunday, 8th December 3.00 pm Christmas Concert
Sunday 22nd December 4.30 pm Crib Service
Monday, 24th December 6.30 pm Carol Service
11.30 pm Midnight Mass
Tuesday, 25th December 8.00 am Christ Mass [said]
9.30 am Christ Mass [sung]
O Come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.
Everyone very welcome