by Andrew Cromwell
By the time you have experienced 15 or 20 Christmases, you tend to get the hang of things. You know that right after Thanksgiving, all eyes turn towards the Christmas season. The lights go up on the houses, the trees go up inside, the Christmas music invades every available auditory space and the shopping begins. If you are under 12 (or 18 or 65), then you start working on your Christmas list. Christmas is in the air.
Many families have Christmas traditions that lend a special tone to this time of the year. Some make the annual trek to find the perfect tree, others make an evening of trimming the tree or visiting the snow. Some families look forward to attending midnight mass or singing Christmas carols together. These annual events become a treasured part of the season.
There is a certain rhythm to it all, and soon enough we get the hang of it. We know what comes next. And even if Christmas is not our favorite time of the year, it is something that we understand. Something consistent. And something expected.
And that’s a problem.
You see, Christmas is so much a part of our culture and life that we often forget that once upon a time there was no Christmas. And what’s more, the very fact that Christmas happened to begin with was pretty much a shock to everyone. Even our attempts at retelling the story of the angels appearing in the sky at night and the two teenagers trekking to that city in the middle of nowhere looking for a place to have a baby, even these attempts, easily lose that vibrant spark that should always accompany the tale.
That God would send His Son—the Savior of the world, the Messiah and King—to a backwater town in the middle of the night wrapped in rags, bloody and crying, that was a bit of a surprise. That God’s plan for salvation was entrusted to 12 men of questionable character—fishermen (who are known for their tall tales), political zealots (who we all roll our eyes at), and a thief (who Jesus entrusted with the money!)—that was quite a surprise too. And then, just when Jesus was becoming famous, the plan was to have Him executed in the most demeaning way possible—a death reserved for the lowest of criminals.
Not exactly the type of plan we would expect. And that is exactly it. Christmas was unexpected. It was surprising. And it should continue to surprise us today.
That God would love us -- when we didn’t love Him. That God would offer total forgiveness to people who don’t deserve it. That He would give His Son to make a way for us. That should surprise us each and every day.
So, this Christmas, in the midst of all the wonderful tradition, don’t forget the incredible surprise that the Great Mastermind has given to all of us.