Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Christmas Gift Series - Surprised by the Gift

Here we are, already heading for Christmas at the speed of light. This year, I’ve been thinking about Jesus and how He is the ultimate gift. I hope you will join me as we look at the following people in the Christmas story and how they responded to God’s magnificent package of joy and salvation. And how we experience many of the same feelings they did. Today’s reading is about how Mary was "Surprised by the Gift," then:

  • Joseph: Protector of the Gift
  • The Shepherds: Amazed by the Gift
  • Simeon and Anna: Anticipating the Gift
  • Herod: Jealous of the Gift
  • Wise Men: Giving to the Gift
Mary: Surprised by the Gift

Have you ever received a surprise gift? Sometimes it comes from an unexpected source, or at a time we least expect it. Sometimes, the gift itself is so lavish words can’t express how we feel.

I have been blessed many times by unexpected gifts. My husband likes to surprise me with generous and sweet little reminders of his love. I usually know what I’m getting ahead of time for my birthday, anniversary, or Christmas. But often there are surprises tucked into my card or stocking that take my breath away – gift cards, candies, a surprise getaway for two. I often feel a mixture of excitement and guilt; always feeling I should have done more for him.

Unexpected gifts of service are also wonderful, but can be hard to accept. Years ago, my sister came to visit me during my last stages of pregnancy. She offered to give me a leg and foot massage. I had never had one before and it sounded heavenly. I exulted in her pampering touch, but was embarrassed by my hairy legs. I had stopped shaving when my belly grew too big to bend over that far.

Gifts are such wonderful things and we love to get them. Yet we often feel uncomfortable or self-conscious in receiving them. Sometimes we worry what others might think. They might think we’re spoiled or unworthy of such lavish attention.  Mary must have had her doubts when the angel told her she would soon receive a little package named Jesus.

This was definitely an unexpected gift. She wasn’t even married yet! What would Joseph think when she told him she was pregnant with the Messiah? Would her friends and family believe her? Would they think her undeserving? Would they assume she made the whole thing up?

Yet, Mary didn’t refuse the gift or argue with God about His extravagance. She graciously accepted her role and praised God for His gift. Her prayer reveals an amazing understanding of scripture for such a young woman:

 “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).

I want to respond to God’s gifts like that. Even if they look suspect at first. The key seems to be an understanding of His character and plan. If God is good and, “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17, emphasis mine), then how can I doubt? And yet I so often do.

Mary was able to look beyond the humiliation of public censure, Joseph’s suspicions, and a long trip in her third trimester. She gave birth in a stable (attended by a man she hadn’t even been intimate with yet), and several moves when God spoke to Joseph in the night. She accepted all this as a gift, because she knew it was an honor to bring the Savior to the world.         

The way we respond to our discomforts and trials, as well as our blessings and victories, reveal Emmanuel – “God With Us” – to the world. If we trust Him and graciously accept whatever He gives, knowing there’s a bigger plan, even unexpected gifts will delight us and motivate us to praise.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Beth,
    What a great idea to emphasize the true Gift through many eyes. I may
    try to find modern people who fit the roles of seeing The Gift in
    anticipation, who are jealous of The Gift (I fear there are many in this
    catagory), who love The Gift, who anticipate The Gift, etc.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours,
    Billie Reynolds