When my older girls were preschoolers, we’d keep every activity a secret until the last possible second.
If I planned to take them to the zoo, they’d find out that morning at 8:30 when I put on their sneakers and packed the cooler.
If Grandma was coming for a visit, they found out when she pulled in the driveway. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be generous enough to clue them in a few hours before she arrived. But that was it. No more advance notice than that.
This parental strategy was for several reasons.
- Sometimes plans change, so I kept things secret so no promises were broken or kids felt disappointed.
- My children would pester me every hour of every day if they knew something exciting was going to happen. “How much longer? How many days? How many hours…minutes….seconds?”
One year, I kept the secret that Grandma was coming right up until the night before her visit when some unforeseen event dragged the news out of me at bedtime.
Disaster ensued. Huge childhood drama.
My oldest daughter wailed, grumped, and grew outrageously angry at me for keeping the secret.
I had not given her acceptable planning time. She informed me, “Had I known Grandma was coming, I would have made her a project. I had time to make a project today. Tomorrow will be too busy and I will not have time. You should have told me!”
Oh sweet daughter, I understand.
I do truly hate surprises. I love my planning and processing time. Springing anything on me is just asking for a meltdown and a whole lot of trouble.
Surprises rock our world a bit, even good ones. We’re thrown off balance and take time to adjust.
And isn’t Christmas all about surprises?
Zechariah was simply performing his priestly duties when an angel appeared unexpectedly and delivered the news that he and his wife would be parents.
Gabriel arrived in the middle of an average, ordinary day and announced to a young girl named Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.
Joseph was sleeping when the angel told him the news in a dream.
Shepherds gathered on the hills outside of Bethlehem to watch over the sheep just as they did every single night. But on this night, the angels declared their Savior had come.
A people who had spent hundreds of years praying for the Messiah, searching for the Messiah, waiting and longing for the Messiah were completely surprised when the Messiah came.
It’s altogether an astonishing tale. Everyone waking up on an average day, going about their average ways, and then the most extraordinary happens: An encounter with an angel. A miraculous sign.
God at work in their midst.
There’s only one member of this entire Christmas account who isn’t stunned and surprised by the Messiah’s birth.
And this brings me great comfort.
None of this was a surprise to God.
Not our need for a Savior. Not the timing. Not that He’d send His Son to be born of a virgin in a tiny town. Not that His Son would die on a cross to save His people from their sins.
He knew all of it.
The very first Christmas verse I can find in the Bible isn’t in the Gospels at all. It’s in Genesis.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV).
The moment Adam and Eve sinned, God declared the plan of salvation, the war with Satan, and Christ’s ultimate victory.
Sometimes surprises can send me into a mad scramble. Life takes unexpected turns. An average ordinary day can catapult me into a crisis with a single phone call.
It feels precarious and frightening to teeter-totter every moment, never knowing when my perfect plan will be bumped into.
But this is what I know:
Even when I don’t have a plan, God does.
Nothing sends Him into a frantic search for a Plan B. Nothing stresses Him out or tosses Him into crisis mode because He didn’t see that coming.
God knew we’d need a Savior all along and He knew exactly how to save us.
God always knows what we’re going through and what we need. Even when we’re surprised, He is not.
So we can rest from our vigil of anxiety and loosen our tight-fisted grip on control.
Christmas reminds us that we can trust Him with today and again with tomorrow.
He has perfect plans and perfect timing and we are perfectly cared for by a God who rescues and saves.