The Unexpectedness of God | Advent

I bought the gift online and the box arrived on my porch yesterday.

It was quite a large box , much larger than I expected.  I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be inside since nothing I’d ordered would be that bulky.

I dropped the load I had in my hands inside the front door and hauled the package inside,  cutting it open quickly with scissors.  That’s when I found the surprise.

My son has two things topping his Christmas wish list:  Lego sets and dinosaur toys.  So, when this particular T-Rex toy went on super-sale on Black Friday online, I snatched  it up, knowing he’d love it.  The T-Rex is  his favorite  dinosaur and he always loves this brand o f toys.  I expected it to be a few inches tall like all the other toys we have by this same toymaker.

But this was beyond all expectation.  This T-Rex stands at least 5 times larger than all  the other action figures and is so big that he can “eat” the other toys and swallow them down into his expansive belly.

My son is going to love this.

I would never, ever have bought this toy knowingly, but this accident and this surprise will  probably be the hit of his Christmas morning.  I can’t wait.

Sometimes it can be so hard to “work up” anticipation, expectation and joy during the Advent season.  Calendars bog us down.  “Must-do’s”  and “have-to’s” can stifle our spirit.  Grief and even just disappointment at how the year turned out can weary us.

I need the reminder (maybe others do also?) about the unexpectedness of God.  How He breaks down the boxes we cram Him into.   We package Him up,  and He surprises us.   He is bigger and grander and far more unexpected than our wildest expectations.

I think I know how situations will unfold and sometimes I settle into thinking that “this will never change.” I see the problem.  I see the complications.  I see the mess.

But God.

I want to  see Him, who is able to do more and to do it in the most wildly creative way.  I cannot trust in my plans or my solutions and fixes, but I can trust in our Mighty God.

I remember Paul’s song of praise in Ephesians:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 CSB).

God is the defier expectations.  He is our Above-and-Beyond God.

In my Advent devotional this week, the readings began in Genesis, telling why we need a Savior, how because of our sin we needed a Rescuer and Deliverer who could restore our relationship with God.

And Adam and Eve knew this.  They heard God’s curse on the serpent:

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15 CSB).  

They knew that Another—a Deliverer—would come to defeat the serpent once and for all.

But what would this look like?  How would the Deliverer come?   How long would they have to wait?

Surely they could not have imagined as they headed out of the Garden of Eden how Jesus would come, how He would be born, how His rescue would come through His perfect life and sacrificial death.  Surely they could not have known the long line of generations who would wait for the coming of the Messiah.

My devotional reading says this:

“Scholar James Boice says Adam and Eve likely thought Cain was the deliverer who would defeat the serpent that God  promised in Genesis 3:15.  It’s even reflected in the name they gave him…In view of the promise of a  deliverer, [Cain’s] name probably means, ‘Here he is’ or ‘I’ve gotten him.’ Eve called her son ‘Here he is’ because she thought the deliverer had been sent by God.” (Advent, Lifeway Women, p. 14)

In Genesis 3, God says there will be a Deliverer.  In Genesis 4, Eve is pregnant and gives birth to Cain, the first human baby ever.

Maybe Adam and Eve truly thought this baby was the one who would rescue and restore them.  Cain would be the promised one.

But God.

They could have grown disappointed and discouraged with Cain’s failure and how nothing turned out the way they expected.

Still, God had a plan they could never have imagined, the perfect Savior who would come at the perfect time:

When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5 CSB).

 

Did Jesus Get Splinters?

“Mom, did Jesus get splinters from the cross?”

My daughter doesn’t really know how to whisper.  She somehow manages to make her voice breathy and full of air, but still push the words out with a great deal of volume.

I mentally apologized to the audience members in front of us and behind us, who had come that night to see the Ballet Magnificat dance in worship and to tell the Exodus story.

But then the dancers surprised us.  They fast-forwarded in time to our ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to give us freedom from slavery to sin.

There He was mocked and scorned by the crowd.
There He was beaten and nailed.
There He was hoisted onto the weathered wood and left to die.
There He cried out in pain.
There He died.

You never know what might make an impression on a child. I had already answered  whispered questions about slavery in Egypt earlier in the program.

Because, as many times as we had talked about the story and read the account in the children’s Bible . . . . and as often as my daughter had heard it in Sunday School and Children’s Church and Awana . . . somehow she had missed the part of slavery where it’s horrible and evil and frightening and relentless and hard and unfair and cruel.

So, the sound of the whip cracking and the way the slaves dropped to the ground in fatigue and despair shocked her.

You mean “slavery” is this?  It’s not just a happy little Jewish community living in tiny houses on the outskirts of Egyptian cities?

No, my baby girl.  Slavery is a pharaoh ordering that every male baby be killed at birth.  It’s waking up every morning to labor hard and long for someone else, no freedom to worship or rise above or choose for yourself or provide for your family.  It’s whips and rods and beatings and shame and being less than.

Why are the slaves working so hard, Mom?  Why is he beating them, Mom?  Why do they look so tired, Mom?

All whispered in my ear and what to say in that moment of hushed conversation other than, “That’s what slavery is, honey.  Didn’t you know?”

But how could she know?  We have a way as humans of protecting ourselves from knowledge that hurts.  And we have a way as parents and teachers of watering down the truth so we don’t frighten kids (or ourselves).  And we have a way as adults of sanitizing reality so we don’t have to face the ugly horror of it.

But when Jesus told the crowd that the truth would make them free, they didn’t understand: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:34).

They had forgotten their people’s four-century-long history, of slavery in Egypt, and how God sent them the deliverer Moses.

Jesus reminded them: You, yourself, have a lifelong history of slavery to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).

I explain this later to my daughters, when whispering is no longer mandatory, and we have the time and space to talk.

Did you see how terrible slavery was for the Israelites?  Jesus says we were slaves to sin in the same way.

And did you see what Moses had to give up in order to deliver the people out of Egypt?  He couldn’t keep his fancy room in the palace, his princely clothes, his royal position, his delectable foods.  He sacrificed all that to lead his people out of slavery.

But Jesus gave up more.  Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

My daughter knew about the nails and the crown of thorns.  She knew about the cross.  But the scornful cries of the crowd, that she couldn’t understand.

Then, while watching the dancers portray Jesus’ crucifixion, she thought of the most horrible thing she could imagine, the thing that terrifies her into wearing shoes on our deck and the thing that has sent her into fits of screaming on our couch when we pull out the tweezers.

Did Jesus get splinters from the cross?

Why yes, baby girl, he probably did.  But he did it for you and for me.  He hung bare-skinned on a rough wooden cross so He could deliver us and set us free.

That’s the truth of costly grace and the Savior who paid the ultimate price: splinters, whips, mockery, the weight of sin, separation from God, and death and all.

How can you keep from forgetting what Christ has done for you?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King