We all like to be surprised. Not the kind of surprise that comes from mysterious candied ingredients in a Christmas fruitcake. Or a surprise visit from a long-lost family member in the middle of a laundry folding party. But the kind of surprise that causes us to feel amazed. A surprise that reminds us that we are thought about, planned for, and deeply loved. According to “dictionary.com”, to amaze is “to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly.” When we are amazed, our response is generally unconscious. Some may respond with a shriek, others may jump with joy, and still others may respond to amazement by quietly weeping. From light displays to Christmas cards, from holiday treats to Christmas programs, and from wrapped presents to family traditions, the unspoken goal of the American experience is to delight in the surprise and amazement of Christmas.
As a young girl, my mom masterfully created elements of surprise and wonder in our family. Beginning on December 1st, my sisters and I rotated who opened the candy on the Advent calendar counting down to Christmas Day. Under the decorated Christmas tree, as wrapped gifts gradually filled the emptiness, my sisters and I daily sorted, counted, and shook each gift, hoping the contents matched one of the circled items in the JC Penney catalog. By Christmas Eve, the wonder of surprise reached a crescendo complete with a nervous tummy, an active mind, and a sleepless night. Christmas morning never came early enough, and the wait to discover if the longing of my heart was waiting under the tree seemed like an eternity. Finally, with the fire going, Christmas music softly playing in the background, wafts of cinnamon rolls flowing from the kitchen, video camera rolling, and dad poised with camera in hand, my sisters and I would come down stairs, running to the tree squealing with delight as our dreams became reality.
Our desire to be surprised, and the joy we receive when we surprise others, is modeled for us by our Heavenly Father. The biblical account of the Christmas story in Luke 2 is complete with surprises. Mary was surprised she was chosen to carry the Son of God who was coming to earth. Joseph was surprised that the woman whom he was to marry was already pregnant. When Joseph told Mary they needed to go to Bethlehem for the census, I bet Mary was surprised she had to ride on a donkey days before she delivered Jesus. The shepherds were surprised by the angel’s message to go find the “baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The religious leaders of the day were surprised by the humble entrance of the King of Kings into the world, and struggled to reconcile Old Testament prophesies with the events of Christ’s birth.
God is eager to surprise us, to amaze us, not only during Christmas, but every day. Though it requires intentionality and a willingness to slow down from a frenetic pace, God faithfully provides opportunities of surprise which will lead us to worship Him in amazement. A song on the radio. A friend’s encouraging words. An answered prayer. Good news from a doctor. Financial relief. God’s surprises are the fulfillment of intimate longings in our heart communicating that:
- You are known.
- You are loved.
- You are highly valued.
Stop for a moment to ponder, when has God last amazed you? Today? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? If you can’t remember the last time He amazed you, be intentional today to look for Him. Just as we wait with anticipation to capture every facial expression of our children as they unwrap the surprises we place for them under the tree, our Heavenly Father longs to see our faces full of amazement as He blows us away by providing for us the longing of our heart. Let us pause this Christmas in wonder of His amazing love showered on us through surprise.