For as long as I can remember, my powers of perception have been somewhat faulty. I’m the kind of person that can’t take a hint. So, it should come as no surprise that although Christmas trees and strings of lights have been for sale in Costco since August, I still haven’t quite accepted the notion that Christmas is coming. When Christmas Eve arrives, I am caught off guard. It happens every year.
I try to prepare...
· Have a few hostess gifts on hand for unanticipated invitations.
· Keep a bottle of wine handy for last minute guests.
· Buy a few gifts for friends and family throughout the year.
· Leave extra time for surprise run-ins with acquaintances at the mall.
· Attend all the advent church services
Yet, no matter how much planning goes into my holiday season, God astonishes me with a bewildering, last-minute rush of Christmas spirit that unsettles my best laid plans. He makes a total mess of everything in order to remind me that Christ was born, and then gives me the grace and peace to have a laugh at the chaos.
There is something about Christmas that is, by nature, unexpected. Sure, Israel had long awaited a messiah, but what they received was not a powerful military conqueror. A teenage virgin gave birth to God. A small, screaming pink bundle. He probably had a full head of hair and looked like a little old man. The delivery, well, I imagine no woman is ever adequately prepared to give birth to her first child, especially in a barn, attended by an equally clueless husband.
They knew to expect the God-child, but his arrival into the world – surrounded by barnyard animals, heralded by stars and angels, visited by shepherds and wise men – was, I’m sure, something of a surprise (and something of a mess)!
Jesus came like my prankster little brother. Though I spent my childhood anticipating him leaping out from behind every corner, the event itself still shocked me senseless. But my constant inability to predict a surprise is something I cherish during Advent. Living in this way, expecting the unexpected, is the best way to prepare myself to enjoy the mess, the miracle, and the messiah. I wouldn’t have it any other way.