How many of you love surprises?!? I'll wait a minute to count all of those I see, even the ones in the back of the room. If there is going to be a surprise, I know there are some people who want to be a part of it. If you are one of those people, you are my people because you understand how fun it is to celebrate and that it takes a lot to pull off a feat like this. You know that somebody has to take care of the details and the planning and then others are needed to carry out the instructions - and all of us have to be sworn to secrecy.
My wife has been out-of-town for a week now, and when she returns tomorrow, there is a surprise waiting for her. She will probably read this and wonder what it is...she will try to get me (or my conspirators) to fess up and spill the beans. She will probably be going over the possibilities:
Did he buy me flowers?a new car?a puppy? (Let me let you in on a little secret - no dogs allowed!)
In Luke 1-2, God goes to great lengths to surprise people with the Good News of something amazing that is happening. People had been waiting a LONG time for the arrival of the Messiah, and here are a few examples of how they handled this surprise:
Anna will announce Jesus' arrival to "all those who were looking for the redemption of Israel"
Simeon will know that the Sovereign Lord is now "dismissing his servant"
Angels will sing and shepherds will glorify and praise God "for all they had heard and seen"
Zechariah will be left speechless
And, Elizabeth will be so excited that her own child will leap in her womb.
When Mary walked in the room, Luke gives us a front seat of how her aunt Elizabeth handled this surprise:
"As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what The Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:44-45)
You're probably wondering why in the world I would be talking about Christmas passages now, because it isn't Christmas time yet...but it will be soon. There are only TWO more shopping days before we reach Christmas (in July). I don't know who started that madness, but now I think they were onto something: why should we wait until December (only) to celebrate the birth of Jesus?!? His coming changed everything for us, so we should definitely be excited by this News!
Whenever we receive of a surprise like this, it should change us in a few ways:
1. This Surprise should excite us. When God gave us His "one and only Son", He did this because He loved us that much! We should want to tell everyone about what has happened - even if they don't want to hear it. We should be overjoyed and ecstatic over this. We should be leaping for joy - Elizabeth's son did that (and if she hadn't been extremely pregnant at the time, she probably would have, too).
2. This Surprise should change us. Jesus came to save us, but He also came to make us more like Him. If you are following Him, you cannot look at Him with a ho-hum attitude and remain in the same place. He went pretty far (from Heaven to Earth) to reach you and me, so He expects us to be willing to go far with Him.
As you pray this week, be praying for people to be surprised at what Jesus did for them. Pray that they will be so blown away by this Gift that they will commit to doing things His way, even when it doesn't seem like the right time. And while you're at it, pray that my wife gets just as excited as Elizabeth did!