Adapted from reflections by SP staff member Laurie Niewoehner.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… We love because he first loved us.” - 1 John 4:8-9, 19 ESV
The first Christmas was a surprise. Every character in the story is shocked. Mary, Joseph, and shepherds were in sheer amazement of what they witnessed. Herod, too, must have been surprised. Only the wise men had some clue of what was to come — yet even they were likely puzzled when they first uncovered the celestial omen.
C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical reflections about his conversion are titled Surprised by Joy. If I were to write about my faith journey, I might call it Surprised by Love. Some of us were actively seeking before our conversion experience; others weren’t. But all of us, seeking or not, were undoubtedly surprised by what we found — or rather, what found us. Love — beyond our wildest imagining, deeper than our deepest longing, astonishing in its fierceness and tenderness.
The incarnation was a surprise because no one expected to encounter an angel, much less a choir of them. But it’s bigger, yet. The incarnation was a surprise because it demonstrated God loving us first. In Jesus, he showed tremendous, unexpected initiative toward an unsuspecting world of weary and desperate sinners.
The surprise is not over. If we open our hearts, we will be surprised again and again by the intensity and gentleness of his love for us. Why did Paul have to spend several verses (Ephesians 3:14-21) praying that the Ephesians would be able to grasp the love of Christ? Because there is so much more to his love than we have yet apprehended.
How does God want to surprise you this Christmas? With intimacy? With mercy? With healing? Take time this week to simply sit with the Lord, and ask him to reveal his love for you. You may be surprised. Amen.