Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Think We Had That On The List

Every piece of weaponry; anything that has the faintest spell of blood has nowhere to go but to ashes; it’s all going to be juice for the flames. Today, my friends…a child is born. (Isaiah 9:5-6a RSV)

It is definitely Christmas time. I came back home to Chicago around Thanksgiving and have been here ever since. But there are always unique things about Christmas, right? More family is around, things are busier, more things to be eaten, errands to run, etc, etc, etc. This year I find myself in a position not unlike other years. My Christmas shopping is last minute. And while that in and of itself isn’t a huge deal, this year it has become one. As I have gone back to each of my family’s list (and checked it way more than twice) I haven’t been able to find (or fund) any of it!

So what have I done? Well for starters, I have included receipts in each and every gift. But more specifically, I have more or less taken a stab at what I think they might like based on what I know about them and what they might like. As brilliant as this might sound, the idea wasn’t all mine. I kinda stole it.

When I was doing some Christmas shopping I ended up in a favorite store of mine. Does this happen to anyone else? Surely I can find something for my brother who shares almost no interests with me in one of my favorite stores! Please tell me I’m not the only one. Anyway, there I stood and one of the many Christmas displays read the following:

“Find gifts to surprise and delight.’

Brilliant I thought. I could certainly do the first half of that! Here’s to hoping the second would follow. So this Saturday evening, I will hand my family members items that they will most likely be surprised by. What they open from me will not have been on their lists.

As I continue to think about these surprise gifts my mind wanders back to the original Christmas gift. What has become the biggest catalyst for our understanding of gift giving today was the biggest surprise and delight we could have never guessed.

Isaiah 9 marks all of the things that the Messiah will one day possess or do. Among those are that the government will rest on his shoulders, he will be mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. There will be no end to his reign.

This was THE list! Check it as many times as you want; this is what needed to happen. Israel had seen plenty of kings before and they all did similar things and had similar short fallings. King David himself led the Israelites into military victory against the Amalekites, Ammonites, Edomites, Moabites, Philistines and Syrians (2 Samuel 8). Others still had established peace (1). Some were even considered to be a father (2). Still other leaders took the Israelites out of exile, Moses most notably.

But none of their kingdoms lasted forever.

And so with great anticipation, the people wait. And wait. And wait. They wait for the day when a Goliath sized man is a part of their tribe. A time when it is clear that Israel will beat down everyone who dares enter. A time when this Messiah will establish his throne, making the Jews the top dog.

This King will have walked where Angels have. This King will come out of nowhere to bring peace, through victory. This King will lead the rightful heirs out of exile and back to their rightful place. Make no mistake, you will know this King.

Enter the surprise.

The books were right; you will know this King. As a matter of fact the angels tell us exactly how you will recognize him and where to find him: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)

A baby?

A small, innocent, smelly, not strong at all, entirely dependent baby? This is going to be THE King?!?! Surely you are kidding! It makes complete and total sense that there is such struggle amongst people to believe that this was the Messiah. It wasn’t how things had ever been done before. Surely it wasn’t the fulfillment of the prophecies!

But this surprise was just the beginning of so many more to come. This King wasn’t going to do it like anyone else had. This King would establish peace through sacrifice. This King would return his people from exile. Not to the land they desired; but to a God who desired them. This King, would sit on the throne…forever.

And so this Christmas, whether you are surprised or not by what sits under that tree for you, be reminded of a God who surprised; who showed up, no, who still shows up in the ways and places we wouldn’t have ever guessed. May the gift of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ be both a delight and in the forefront of your minds as you celebrate this year.

1. Peace throughout the reign of individual kings had been established through military triumph. It has been called “Peace Through Victory.” Your king (and his armies) would take over individual territories, lands, or peoples and establish his own peace. The only problem? Peace would exist only so long as you weren’t taken over by someone else. Peace was really just a king of the mountain type game.

2.) To this day area in other parts of the world will refer to their ruling king as father. Someone who has the people's best interest at heart. Someone who, like a father, watches after and protects them.

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