In over 30 years of marriage, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually surprised my wife at Christmastime. This is because Peggy is astonishingly observant and I am hopelessly obvious. One year, however, Peggy’s sewing machine reached the point where it had become as much hindrance as help, and she resigned herself to the fact it was time to replace it. I tucked her comment away in my mind, and that fall, shopped for the one that—considering both functionality and price—offered the best value. Purchased then on lay-away, the gift remained hidden at the store while I paid on it incrementally over time with cash. It was only when Peggy was in the maternity ward, resting up from childbirth, that I redeemed the package, wrapped it, and surprised her with it on Christmas morning! (And that’s what it takes for Mr. Slick to pull off a surprise around here.)
It is amazing to think about how intentional and personal God was in giving the world its first Christmas present. He knew exactly what we needed, He planned His gift from ageless age beforehand, and He kept it well hidden until the right time for it to be revealed. He even readied us ahead of time, foretelling His plan through His prophets, though they themselves couldn’t figure out the mystery or its time of delivery, despite their greatest efforts to do so. “Concerning this salvation,” writes Peter, “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing. . . . It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you.”1 God was thoughtfully preparing a people for acceptance and belief, even while keeping His means of grace a mystery. How did He hide it so well? “The mystery . . . which was not made known to people in other generations,” writes Paul to the early church, “was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”2 What present could possibly be so big that it had to be hidden in God himself? What gift could be so valuable as to be held safe and secure in Him whose riches are unsearchable? What benefactor could be so patient, preparing the world through His prophets, orchestrating events in His sovereignty, and concealing His treasure until “the fullness of time”?3
In next week’s post, we’ll unwrap this present and behold together “the mystery” kept hidden for so long. Until then, we marvel at a God who cares about us so much that He goes to eternal extremes to show it. That in itself is a mystery to ponder.
Father, as we approach Christmas Day, inspire us to stop long enough to try to imagine the depths of your love for us. As we give and receive our gifts this year, may we also do so in selfless love. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Christ in me is hope.
1 1 Peter 1:10-12
2 Ephesians 3:4, 5, 9
3 Galatians 4:4