Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
Because it was one of those years when Christmas fell on Sunday, our church decided to have an informal worship service with the general theme of “come in your Christmas sweater.” Sunday was cold, but the sky was clear. People arrived in new sweaters, ties, and one very nice mink coat. The prize in my eyes went to the seven-year-old who rushed down the aisle in his brand new football uniform complete with helmet and pads.
Christmas is about promise and surprise. There is the long-awaited promise of God’s coming into a world littered with our own broken toys of kingdoms that have come and gone. There is the promise made to redeem a people and a creation groaning to escape toward a better dawn. There is the promise made to end the role of sword and spear and bless the role of plow and pruning hook.
But the surprise caught the world off guard. There was no giant, king, warrior, or wizard delivered to us. There was no great palace, royal parade, rockets, or roar of lions.
There were instead the sounds of a woman in labor. There were the anxious breaths of a husband trying to help. The awkward steps of shepherds stumbling in the dark. The setting was dark and cold and just the opposite of how the world expected to welcome a savior.
Our savior was a baby, born poor and virtually homeless in a land already full of poor people. People forced by conquerors to register for a tax to support a government not their own. This was the great keeping of the promise?
But of course it was. It was—and is—the most incredible Christmas gift we never asked for. The gift is to be loved by God and to be able to love God back. The gift is to be able to live life unafraid. The gift is to have hope as our operating system.
I pray this Advent and Christmas that we unwrap this grand gift one more time and be always open to the promise of surprise.