Are you willing to be surprised?

Jonathan Rowe, 25 December 2022

Isaiah 9: 2–7; Luke 2: 1–14

I wonder if you look at the gifts around your Christmas tree and wonder what’s in them. Perhaps, if you are very curious, you poke one or two of the parcels. It can spoil the surprise, but I have to say that I’ve been known to do that!

I’ve brought along something from under the tree. What do you think it is? [They say, ‘Tennis racquet’.] No, I don’t think so – I think it’s one of those new lightweight guitars. [Acts out strumming.] Well, what about a fly swatter? Or some aeroplane landing paddles?

No?! Well what about this? I think it’s a tennis ball. It’s a small present, so let’s open it, shall we? I don’t think my family will mind. A tennis ball? No, a chocolate orange! Well – that’s a surprise!

Today is Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘saviour’. I think that the birth of Jesus is one of those ‘difficult to work out what it is’ presents. The shape of the packet doesn’t seem to give much of a clue as to its contents. A baby doesn’t seem much of a saviour.

That’s why the angels come. Angels are messengers. And these messengers have an astounding message: that a baby would be the Saviour of the world.

The angels’ message didn’t seem likely. But the sight of them was ‘glorious’. Perhaps there were flashes of lightning with smoke to accompany the infinity of angels. The heavenly vision meant the angels’ surprising message couldn’t be ignored.

The sight of the angels was ‘glorious’. Perhaps there were flashes of lightning with smoke to accompany the infinity of angels.

So, the shepherds do something. They say, ‘Well, we’ve never seen anything like that on this bit of hillside. It’s a risk leaving the sheep, of course, what with all those rumours of wolves in the vicinity, but that vision was something else. Why don’t we just nip to Bethlehem over there to see if the story of the baby is true?’

And when they did, the shepherds discovered everything as the angels had said it would be. Now that was a surprise!

This Christmas I have a question for you. Are you willing to be surprised? Are you willing to be surprised by Jesus? We all have ideas about God. But Jesus often surprises us. He offers us something more wonderful and interesting than we expect.

In the words of our final carol, ‘Hark the herald angels sing’, we ‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see’. In Jesus, we meet God himself. Now, that’s a surprise!

Merry Christmas!