Have you ever gotten a Christmas gift that you didn’t necessarily expect? Or maybe one you didn’t even appreciate?
Socks & Underwear, anyone?
I could tell you about the times this has happened to me, but my family might be reading this! So, instead I’ll tell you about a time it happened to one of my family member!
One year my dad bought my mom a .22 pistol, but instead of wrapping the pistol and giving it to her on Christmas morning (because who would do that, right? That’s just tacky!) he wrapped up the bullets which just happen to be in a small enough package that my mom thought she was about to open up a really heavy box of jewelry!
Some gifts aren’t necessarily what we want, even if they are what we need.
Every writer of the Gospels is faced with a unique question that has to be answered, and that question is this: If Jesus really was who he said he was, then how could so many people miss it?
In other words, how could the arrival of Jesus be so unexpected to so many?
Luke seems acutely aware of this. So much so that he begins his book about Jesus with an introduction that concludes in this way, “…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” He knows many will reject this story; that many are unprepared to receive this story.
This isn’t a once upon a time fairy tell. This story of Jesus is no fable. Luke spent time reading, talking and then writing about Jesus because he knew the question everyone was thinking even if they weren’t asking it: “What the deal with this Jesus guy?”
Guess what? There are many people, perhaps more now than in a very long time, who are asking that same question.
And the story Luke is going to tell does seems unbelievable!
The story begins by describing a couple who had a baby late, LATE into their life – well past the years of having a child. Talk about an awkward conversation around the table during the holidays. Just imagine your 65 year old aunt and uncle announcing to the family they are expecting a baby in the next 30 or so weeks! THIS is how the Jesus story begins.
Luke then tells us about a couple that is young and unmarried, but who will have a baby without having sex, because – wait for it – God will personally impregnate this woman. THIS is the couple that will bring the savior into the world!
The question for many then, and many still today, is how could anyone believe this story?
Honestly, though, this wasn’t the hardest part of the story for many in Jesus’ day to accept.
Here’s the thing about the story of Jesus’ arrival…to the rest of the world it was a lot like opening up a box of socks and underwear…or a pack of bullets when you’re thinking it’s jewelry.
Jesus wasn’t the ruler that everyone wanted, but he was the savior that everyone needed!
Most of Israel had been waiting on someone like Jesus to show up, to deliver them from oppression and to restore their world to the one God had long been promising. Jesus planned to deliver on this promise, of course, but in a way most simply were unprepared for. Instead of leading a militaristic revolution, he invited those around him to follow him all the way to Jerusalem – the capital city – to watch him lay down his life on a cross for every Jew and Gentile all across the world.
The story of Jesus begins with him in a wooden manger and it ends with him on a wooden cross. From the cradle to the cross, Jesus allowed other’s hands to have their way with him.
Of course there were those who recognized Jesus for who he was…some people were prepared to see him, and to receive him. Simeon and Anna are two such people who were preparing for the day the savior came to earth. They seem to instantly recognize who Jesus is, even as a baby boy being presented in the Temple.
It’s much like those who go “picking” for a living or who go to yard sales on the weekend for fun. They’ve developed an eye for things that most people pass over.
Like the man from New Mexico who picked up a table top mirror at a garage sale for $2 and then sold it at auction for 35,000. It was a Tiffany mirror from the turn of the 20th Century after all.
Or like the woman named Claire who bought a small wooden table for $25 that ended up selling for auction for 1 million.
Or like the family in New York who picked up a small white bowl for $3 that ended up selling at auction for 2.2 million!
You see, these are people who are prepared to recognize things when all others have lost sight of what matters.
And here’s what happens to many of us. When we look for what we want; we sometimes miss what we need.
And here’s the thing many of us forget during this time of year. Advent isn’t just about remembering the coming of Jesus in the first place; it’s about preparing for the second coming of Jesus to this place. He came, yes, but he comes again.
There are things we need to do in these days that we may not want to do, but they are necessary to prepare ourselves and others to receive that which is yet to come.
So, during this season of Advent – this season of preparing and waiting and hoping – may you hear the Apostle Paul’s words anew:
“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-13).