Christmas is a season of surprises. From a young age, I could hardly wait to see what gift-wrapped surprise would be waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning. Silly Putty, Donkey Kong Gameboy, slinky, or a Gray Nicholls cricket bat; the bigger the surprise the bigger the grin. Even today, at 50 years of age, I still prefer a good surprise at Christmas over being asked what I would like. There is something invigorating when you are on the receiving end of a surprise!
A story of surprises
The Christmas story has many elements of surprise and even the shepherds were not immune.
Read Luke 2:8-20.
Imagine their surprise when, out of nowhere, an Angel appears to them announcing the good news (Luke 2:10) or directing them to the manger scene (Luke 2:12). And then comes the next surprise. A baby, lying in a feeding trough, surrounded by stinking barn yard animals (Luke 2:16). Not the environment you would expect to find a newborn, let alone the Saviour of the world! And what a surprise that God, in His wisdom, would choose to announce Jesus’s arrival to a bunch of lowly shepherds (Luke 2:8-9), that His glory would shine upon and be shared with what was considered ‘the lower class’ of society.
Surprise in the midst of despair
At Baptist World Aid we see surprises all the time. Even in the midst of despair, devastation, and injustice we see God’s glory shining through in surprising ways. We see traditionally poor parents in Cambodia learning new agricultural techniques and selling their produce to the local market – finally able to feed their family! We see drought-stricken regions in Kenya, flourishing with green life as innovative sand dams preserve and provide water through the dry season. We see children in Bangladesh given an education and protected from early child marriage. We see schools in Nepal providing clean water and hygiene training to students who become change agents in their communities. We see womeKathy Sinclairn in Uganda joining together in Savings Groups and, in so doing, finding their voice in the community and learning how to grow incomes they once barely dreamed were possible.
Our God of surprises is still at work
Change is happening in surprising places and Christmas can be a great time to contribute to this change as we ‘surprise’ families living in poverty with the gift of love.
Just as the Shepherds returned to base praising God for all they had seen and heard (Luke 2:20), we too praise God for the amazing transformation we are seeing in poverty-stricken communities… with the help of your support. Our God of surprises is still very much at work!
Thank you God for the wonderful surprises I experience and remember at Christmas. Help me to connect with the surprising elements of the Christmas narrative. May my youthful wonder and awe of Christmas continue into adulthood. And, like the Shepherds, as I celebrate the hope you have given me through the birth of Jesus, may I also bring joy to those challenged with poverty… and surprise them with the gift of hope this Christmas.