I love the miracle of Christmas.
Jesus, born in a grungy, dirty manger, somewhere out in the back of the Inn, where there was no room for his parents. Born to a virgin, just as the prophets foretold centuries earlier - and the first to celebrate his birth were the shepherds, the uncouth of the day.
Such a contradiction to the way most would have expected the Savior of the world to come.
I was always a kid who wanted to know what he was getting. I often spoiled the surprise of Christmas by searching high and low for where my folks stored the Christmas presents they had bought us. I even used to make my way into wrapped packages to see what I was getting, trying to be careful to retape in such a way as to not give myself away - as if they would somehow be worse for the wear.
I was the one who lost out on the surpise of the gift. When I knew what was in the package, it was no longer a surprise, nor was it unexpected. It was simply what I knew I was going to get.
I find it interesting how often I go about living this way. I want to know what is around the next corner, where I am headed, what is in store for me and my family, etc. - and so often I miss the gift of the unexpected.
And so, as the Christ in Christmas has become more and more meaniful, I find myself taking great joy in the unexpected - if that makes sense. The focus of the celebration has become a whole lot more about the giving rather than the getting - I am thankful for that. And that focus has become incredibly gratifying and entertaining this Christmas as I take my focus off of what I might get and find ways to give.
Something called "The Ten Dollar Blessing," which was blogged about by Billy Coffey at "What I Learned Today" several weeks ago, really opened my eyes, my ears and my heart to what God was up to and the gift he wanted me to receive this Christmas. And so, this year has been about giving. My wife and I have "given" before, but the attitude through which the giving is taking place this year is somehow different, more meaningful, more Christ-centered.
And in the process, the gift of giving has been an unbelievable blessing. There will be more on this in a coming blog, but to say that we have been blessed through this Christmas season would be the understatement of 2008.
One way we have been blessed is through the bounty of cards, pictures and letters we have received...record numbers, it seems. It is in one of these Christmas cards that arrived today that I have been deeply touched. An unexptected gift!
I spent my college days ditching classes, playing sports, drinking heavily and making my way into a little trouble on occasion. I was rarely alone, which means there were others like me. Slowly, God is claiming every last one of us, and creating a new heart within us. I think maybe each time he "gets" one of us he might feel like I do when I get an unexpected gift.
At any rate, the card that arrived today brought tears to my eyes, warmth to my heart and a sure sense of what Christmas is all about. The card came from one of my old partying buddies (the first time I have ever gotten a Christmas card from him), thanking me for a little, seemingly insignificant, role I have played in his life in the past two months.
His card, though, sheds the words "seemingly insignificant" from my mind and it has touched my heart. All praise, glory and honor be to Christ Jesus for the work that is going on this guy's heart.
Similar to Jesus' birth all those years ago, my favorite gift (other than Jesus' birth) this year has come in an unexpected package, in an envelope of all things. There was no money in it, just the imprint of Christ in the words of an old friend that fully lay claim to this season of advent - hope, peace, joy and love. An unexpected gift, that's for sure.
May you be blessed this Christmas and may the greatest gift you receive be in the form of the unexpected gift - the gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord!