Do you still expect Christmas surprises?
Christmas may have been your favorite time of year when you were a child. If so, I suspect you couldn’t wait to see what was wrapped for you under the tree. And when the big day finally arrived, you tore open your presents expecting to be wonderfully surprised.
But what about today? Do you still expect Christmas surprises?
Unfortunately, the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood can lessen the excitement and anticipation one felt as a child. Are you still interested in being surprised, or have you left all such expectations in the past?
Christianity was birthed in a surprising manner. No pomp and circumstance. No fanfare. Just a humble virgin giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah, as prophesied hundreds of years earlier. (Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2)
And throughout the life of the Messiah, the surprises just kept coming. But should we expect anything less? After all, the babe in Bethlehem was none other than “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. In Surprised by Joy,Lewis described his intellectual journey from atheism to Christianity. He wisely wrote, “One second of joy is worth 12 hours of pleasure.”
What are you pursuing and experiencing in your life today: pleasure or joy? Are you attempting to satisfy your soul with the things of this world? If so, you will be sadly disappointed. Material things are incapable of doing what only God can do for us.
Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17).
Unless you realize how desperately you need eternal salvation, you will tend to assume that the birth of Christ is no big deal. And those who fail to see the significance of Christ’s birth typically also fail to see the eternal purpose of the Savior’s death and resurrection.
Evangelist Billy Graham said, “Don’t leave Jesus in the manger. Don’t remember Him only at Christmas. Instead, learn to walk with Him every day, as you pray and read His Word and ask Him to help you.”
Do you still expect Christmas surprises? In order to receive God’s joy into your soul, you will need to come to Bethlehem in your heart as you bow down before the Prince of Peace. Without humility and faith, you will never experience a spiritual awakening.
Perhaps pleasure is your primary pursuit today. C. S. Lewis said, “We have had enough, once and for all, of Hedonism - the gloomy philosophy which says that pleasure is the only good.” Sadly, multitudes of people today sacrifice their souls on the altar of hedonism.
For example, cancer wreaks havoc on those who have been given a dire diagnosis. But do you realize that sin within your soul is a far worse disease? The truth is your sin can send your soul to Hell for eternity, whereas cancer can only destroy the body. This explains why you need forgiveness from Jesus more than anything else.
C.S. Lewis said, “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”
How big of a deal is the birth of Christ? As Pastor David Jeremiah said: “All the Christmas presents in the world are worth nothing without the presence of Christ.” And the only way to experience Christ’s presence is to receive Him as your Lord and Savior. “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
You would be wise to call on the Lord today. After all, you are not getting any younger. And when your soul leaves your body at the moment of your death, you will suddenly realize why Jesus spoke with such seriousness about Heaven and Hell. “Each person is destined to die once, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped an estimated 800 Jews escape the Nazis during WWII. She said, “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
Those who trust Jesus as Savior are pleasantly surprised by the joy they receive in this life, and the overflowing joy they experience upon their entrance into Heaven.
And yet there are many others who reject the gift of God which was placed under the “tree” of the cross where the Savior suffered and died. The huge surprise they will experience is the shock of waking up on the other side of the grave only to face the wrath of God as a result of their sins. (Daniel 12:2 and Matthew 25:31-46)
And so in the end, everyone gets surprised, either by joy and beauty or horror and agony. It all depends upon what you do with the babe of Bethlehem. The Messiah came to Earth to die on the cross for your sins, and then the Savior rose from the dead on the third day.
Will you choose to approach your Creator in repentance and faith this Christmas? The following prayer may express what is in your heart today:
“Lord Jesus, I believe you came into this world to be my Savior from sin. Today I turn away from wickedness and place my trust in your death on the cross as the payment for my sins. I want to serve and follow you every day as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus for giving your life so that I can know you and follow you today, and then live with you forever in Heaven. Amen."
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.