I can still picture the tears running down the face of my youngest daughter, then 14 years old, the day my parents drove a bright red Corolla into our driveway, as a gift for her and her sister.
It was entirely unexpected.
We had been perfectly clear with them since the day our 16 year old had gotten her license – we would not be buying a car for them. It was not an option.
Well, the unexpected happened.
The unexpected gift we didn’t pay for; the well-cared for car of a dear aunt.
No-one had to remind my daughters to say ‘thank-you’ for this gift. Some gifts are easy to receive.
Unfortunately, not all gifts are packaged like bright red sports cars. Some gifts don’t look so pretty on the outside. Or, maybe they weren’t exactly what we had planned for.
Sometimes it is hard to know how to receive life’s gifts.
Some time ago, we received a gift in our family – in the form of an surprise pregnancy and, later, a sweet wee one.
For us, a gift – new life – in unexpected packaging.
Receiving what life lays before us requires faith.
It takes faith – eyes to see with God’s eyes – to pour grace on situations that may not come in perfect packages with pretty big pink bows.
Jesus came wrapped in a surprising package.
The Israelites were looking for a royal birth and noble lineage – they were given an unwed teenaged mother and a baby laying in a manger, not a royal suite.
They expected a mighty warrior, perhaps mounted on a chariot, surrounded by a huge army with swords drawn entering the city of Jerusalem – instead, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city he came to save, unarmed and riding on a donkey.
The Israelites were looking for a king to lead them out of bondage – the king came, but as a baby whose message was one of repentance – not takeover.
Not at all what was expected.
Life often comes to us in unexpected packages. How will you and I receive it?
Life often comes to us unannounced. At a time and an hour that we weren’t prepared for.
Mary was one of the first asked to receive God’s gift in Jesus. Mary, the unwed teenage mother receives the promise of Jesus with the words:
“Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”
Mary receives it.
Life often gives – ‘gifts‘ – us things we don’t expect. How will you and I receive it?
- Perhaps, you’ve been given a difficult relationship (at work, in your family, in a friendship) – how will you receive it?
- Perhaps, you have a health problem you’re needing to face – how will you receive it?
- Or, maybe you’re in a job that isn’t fulfilling – how will you receive it?
A big piece of life hinges on our responses to what we’ve been given – gifted – how we receive what is on our life’s platter.
Our responses depend on our view of God. Is He really in charge and sovereign over all things – or just the good stuff?
Will God bring about His good purposes even in this?
May you and I, like Mary, respond in faith, with open hands and an open heart. Trusting God can and will fulfill His purpose, even in this.
Let us offer up the sacrifice of praise, lips that give thanks to His name, in all life’s gifts.
And, let us remember that the “good stuff” in life – the gifts that truly count – love, peace, joy, and that oh-so-needed grace – can not be earned, or bought, or worked diligently to gain. The good stuff is grown in us as we trust God with the details of our lives, and wait for the unfolding of His plan, even in this.
For my family, the unexpected wee one has become the sweetest blessing of our lives. It has birthed a sweet mama, a sweet marriage, new family, new life.
My health struggles have brought a softened heart, a deeper understanding of God’s love, and unexpected joy in counting true blessings in life.
In Jesus coming, God’s plan was fulfilled for our redemption – new life – full reconciliation of God with man. The unthinkable – the unexpected – God coming down from heaven in the form of a baby to save us all.
May we receive all that God has for us. May we not miss the blessings because of the unexpected packaging. May we respond like Mary….
“I’m the Lord’s….. Let it be with me just as you say.” – Luke 1:38
**Lord, give me eyes to see the gifts you offer me each day and a willing heart to receive them .