Advent: The Gift of the Unexpected

Rev. Steve Casteel

Advent: The Gift of the Unexpected

December 1, 2023
Rev. Steve Casteel

I love Christmas because it is about surprises! We sneak around and buy gifts, then we wrap them and place them under our Christmas trees. There is still a little kid in most of us. Have you ever gotten one of those gifts that totally caught you off guard? Have you ever given a gift that you could hardly keep secret because you knew the person opening it would be so surprised? There is so much joy in watching someone receive a gift they never expected.

One year our family decided to surprise one of our member families with a full Christmas celebration. The wife in the family was a delight to be around. She loved conversation and was a voracious reader. Her husband was not! He was sourpuss who had battled physical problems and just wanted to be left alone. I visited them on a “scouting” mission to see what kind of decorations they had and to get gift ideas. It was an easy job. There were no decorations and it was obvious that anything we did would be appreciated ( at least by one of them). 

We went to the local big box store and bought a small tree and all the trimmings. After much conversation, the kids decided on their gifts. Our daughter would get the wife a couple of books (Our daughter was and is a book lover) and our son discovered that the husband chewed tobacco, so he bought a box of Red Man tobacco (He was so proud). We wrapped the gifts and went to spread Christmas cheer. When we arrived they were on their screen porch. It had plastic hanging over the screen to make it warmer for them and for the plants they brought inside. Our hostess was so excited and she gave the kids full reign to decorate the tree. She and I watched with amusement and delight. Her husband was laying on an old couch with his back to us and never said a word…just groaned and huffed. After the tree was trimmed we sang a couple of carols and the kids dug out their gifts. Our daughter went first and helped open the package. The lady of the house raved and hugged her tightly. Then our son produced his gift. The husband never acknowledged him until our son went over to the couch and got in his face. “What you want boy?” he growled. “ I got something for you that I know you are gonna like.”my son enthusiastically replied.

The old man turned over and my son pushed the gift in his face. He took it begrudgingly and began to slowly open it. I could tell he was surprised by the contents of the gift. His countenance changed and he sat up. “Thank ya boy, that is my brand.” Our son beamed and for a moment so did our reluctant recipient.

“ Why would you do this?’ he asked. In concert, as if they had rehearsed, the kids replied,”Because Jesus loves you!” They hugged him and we made our way home. The kids were caught up in this experience and it stayed with them.

The Christian calendar begins with the season of Advent. It includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas and all the days in between. It is a time when we can truly focus on the unexpected gift of Jesus. It is a season of remembering what a surprise Jesus was to the whole world. Who would believe that the Son of God, The Prince of Peace, the Christ, would come to us in a manger in a little village to the most unlikely of parents. Who could believe that the savior of the world would be “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger”? Who would believe that that savior came for Mary, Joseph, Pilate, Herod, and even Judas? The coming of Jesus reminds us that our God is always looking for ways to surprise us with love. Our God is always coming to us in unexpected ways. Advent is a time for us to remember how much we are loved and to practice that love with acts of service, generosity, and worship. John put it best when he tried to tell us why God would give us the gifts of love and salvation. 

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life. For god sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved”

Can you imagine the joy God felt to share such an unexpected gift? I pray that that same God will surprise you in this Advent season and fill your heart with the love of Christ!

Live loved,

Steve Casteel


Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash