Summary: The surprise announcement and coming of Christ gives us His love.
December 9, 2007
There are some surprises that are wonderful. A surprise birthday party! A surprise visit by a dear friend. A surprise check in the mail.
✵ Russian poet Boris Pasternak said, “Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”
✵ Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.”
Or we can take Jane Austen’s view, she claims, “surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced and the inconvenience is often considerable.”
Keijo Kopra, was on his way home from work, when he was pulled over for driving 14 miles an hour over the speed limit. You would figure the fine would be around $120. But not in Finland where fines are based on the severity of the offense and your income. The officer wrote him a ticket for $14,500.
Enraged, the executive challenged the amount in court, and a judge lowered it to $9,000. But then the police mentioned that Mr. Kopra had received two previous speeding tickets in 1999 before the new system went into effect. Based on the income he had claimed at the time, each fine was $750. The judge was outraged and imposed additional fines of $38,000.
When we look at surprises, think about Mary. Mary was doing nothing that seemed extraordinary, she was living her life as she believed she should. Then the surprise came, and along with her surprise was the miraculous mixed in with the ordinary.
The annunciation of Jesus, to Mary is a declaration that is both beyond us, and yet within us. It’s at the same time greater than our life experiences and, yet, descriptive of the events that make up life. Into Mary’s common, everyday hopes and dreams, comes the incredible, the fantastic, and the surprisingly awesome call of God. And that call, shatters and changes Mary’s life . . . forever.
With the angel, Gabriel’s first words, the change begins, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you.” Those words ended normalcy for Mary. Have you ever pictured Mary as that care free teenager?
Picture her, lost in the dreams of a young woman waiting to be married. She thinks about her upcoming marriage and the celebration the entire community would participate in. After all, she has Joseph, from the honored line of King David. She spends time writing in her journal Mrs. Yoseph ben Yacov (Joseph, son of Jacob). We can imagine her as she day dreams about Joseph, he’s good and righteous, but he’s good looking to . . . and we know the thrill within her, even the anxiety, as she anticipates their wedding day. She’s thought about baby names, and how they will announce this to family and friends. But first, they’ll wait a few years.
Then the angel of the Lord comes and declares, “The Lord is with you,” and her dreams collapse. . . and change. The angel says, “Mary, God has chosen you to bear a child, and the Lord declares “The Spirit of God will cause it.”
How do we even begin to imagine Mary’s confusion and fear. She must have wondered how will this happen? What will Joseph think? He knows the law. Will he believe me? I can’t be pregnant, this is so illegal . . . will he have me stoned. What am I going to do?
What about her family and friends? What about that wonderful celebration which was to be her marriage, her wedding dream? How can it happen now? And the angel simply says, “The Lord is with you. Fear not.”
Folks, who among us has not experienced the shattering of our dreams? The Scottish preacher James Stewart declared: “It is a queer, incalculable thing, this life. For a few, for a very few, does it work out in detail just as they planned. Sooner or later, one fact confronts every pilgrim on the road, the fact of the discipline of hopes denied and plans defeated.”
Hopes denied. Plans defeated. So it was with Mary. So it is with us. In one instance it’s a man or a woman who’s dreamed of having a family, but their path has taken them into the single life, with no family on the horizon. Or the person who’s dreamed of owning their own business and gave their energy and efforts to fulfill the dream only to lose it all. In another instance, it’s a young person who has dreamed of going to just that one college, and then is refused admittance. The dream of a career, which for reasons beyond your control can never take place. It’s the man or woman who dreamed and worked to have a marriage that would last a lifetime, only to suffer the pain of divorce. It’s the family who experiences the death of a child. It’s the hopes and dreams of growing old as husband and wife, only to have one become very sick, and suddenly you are a caretaker . . . and the intimacy and plans are shattered. We can all add to the list.