Expect the Unexpected

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year."

Can you hear the song playing in your mind?

I hear it every year and it is a nice little jingle. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, those Christmas classics I heard as I grew up. The most wonderful time of the year… But is it true? Is it true this year for you?

This year has brought hardships we never anticipated this time last year. A global disease that has ended up changing our economy, our plans, our dreams and so much more. We have had lock-downs, job losses and many of us feel the loss of a loved one (whether COVID related or not) this year. I never expected that we would be experiencing church for three months (Easter service!) online. We have many folks who haven’t been able to return to in-person church, and some who have given up church completely. It has been a hard year.

And our hardships are not over; we haven’t passed through it yet. As a church, we may have more shutdowns of in-person gatherings coming very soon. Most of us are experiencing separations from ones we love (I will miss my kids and grandson this year). There are further job uncertainties. Marriage hardships. Many unknowns and fears and anger. The days are hard and lonely for many.

Generally, for many, the Christmas season doesn’t bring thoughts of joy and “the most wonderful time of the year”. It comes with feelings of loss, loneliness, and hurts and pains from past years.

Christmas time can be fairly dark for many.

We aren’t the first to feel that darkness of unknowns and fears and loneliness of course. Consider a moment of Mary and Joseph who experienced dark days in their world. The government was oppressive, a world of fear, unknowns, and changes. Joseph is faced with a fiancé who is now pregnant… an unexpected birth announcement to he and Mary. This was not expected. How was he going to provide for his new wife and child? How will they leave their home to go to Bethlehem for a census? Why now? Will Mary be able to travel? Do they have a choice?

Somewhere on the way I suspect to Bethlehem Mary begins to feel heavier contractions. Joseph quickens his step into the town, searching desperately for a place for his wife. The now growing need to give birth for Mary… it won’t wait. It’s dark. It’s night. The worst and most difficult of timing… they settle for a cave, an unclean stable for animals. This is unexpected. This is… hard.

This is the hardest of days this young couple have experienced. Has Joseph helped deliver a baby before? Has he been with midwifes? Exhausted is an understatement… they are bone-tired. All in the dead of night. Where was God in the midst of all this? Why this? Why now?

We know how this goes, don’t we? We jump to the nice, sanitized, nativity scenes in our homes. Jesus comes.

Friends, don’t forget: Christmas came at night. Jesus came in the dark of night.

And it was in the dark that the angels intruded into the night of the unexpecting shepherds to announce the King had come in the night!

Jesus still comes in the dark of night!

I think I would go so far as to say that I have found that He works most obviously in the dark… in the darkest of times! In my life, when the days have been dark… in my brokenness over sin in my life, in my fears of unknowns, in deep loneliness, in times of deep disappointment… it has been in these times that as I poured into the Word – often in the Psalms – that God has spoken out of the darkness.

God speaks to us out of the darkness. We often aren’t expecting Him to show up… and He speaks, He comforts, His presence becomes palpable. Emmanuel… God with us. My church, expect the unexpected… in the darkness… in the very place where you are… keep your eyes upon our Emmanuel. Expect the unexpected.

Take a look at Psalm 16:11; 27:10; 43:4-5.

Merry Christmas to each of you in this unexpected Christmas season.

In His Grip, Pastor John

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