Unexpected joy...


I never tire of looking at the mountains. I often go about my day, working around the house or in the office, when something causes me to look up and pause.  The sun shines through the grey skies and catches me by surprise. Unexpected...

Expectations sometimes get me in trouble.

Like when I expect my husband to remember a dental appointment without a reminder..uh, yeah, not happening...

Or I expect to drive to Everett in 15 minutes and the trestle is backed up so it takes 30 or 40 minutes instead...

Or I expect a doctor appointment to start on time and I'm left in the waiting room for what seems like an interminable amount time...

I know, in the scheme of things, these are minor annoyances. But how about when you are anticipating an event and it doesn't happen...at least not when you though it would or in the way you thought it would come about? I was reading an article by one of my favorite writers, Jon Bloom, about how Jesus came in such an unexpected way...not anything like what his chosen people thought it would be like. In Bloom's article, titled "We Do Not Know What God Is Doing", he says, 

Have you ever stopped to ponder just how strange everything about the birth of Jesus was? Whatever people had imagined the coming of the Messiah would look like, no one imagined it to look like it did.

In all that he reveals to us about that strange first Christmas, God is saying very important things to us about how he wants us to view the perplexing, bewildering, glorious, frustrating, fearful, painful, unexpected, disappointing, and even tragic experiences of our lives. No one really understood all that was going as God the Son entered the world. No one really saw the big picture — no one except God.

I know that's something I struggle with...trying to figure out what God is doing or how He plans to make something come about. Why do I so often forget the words of Isaiah 55:8-9, "For your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Could He have said it any plainer? In all our days, weeks, months, and even years of waiting, of praying, God is doing something and has a grander purpose than we can grasp or imagine. And in the meantime, He asks us to keep praying, keep hoping, keep trusting that He is up to something that will work out for our good, (Rom 8:28), even when we can't see it. 

This year has been hard in some ways I had not anticipated. One of those hard things has been the 20 year anniversary of my parent's car accident in August of 1997. I don't know why the loss of their lives has hit me so hard again after all these years, and brought grief and loneliness in fresh ways that I can't explain. I still miss them terribly. And yet, through this season of Advent, preparing for Christmas, I've been reminded through His word, good books and articles, and songs, that there is still joy to be found, even during times of grief and disappointment. 

While I was traveling in Norway in September, my cousin, Lyle, was sitting next to me as we cruised up the coast on the Hurtigruten ship. He had head phones on as he listened to Christmas songs that he planned to teach his Shelter Bay choir, a group of seniors he directs. At one point he leaned over and said, "Listen to this one." Putting on his head phones, I listened to the song, "There's Still My Joy", and felt tears fill my eyes. 

So, if you are grieving the loss of someone dear or just struggling with unfulfilled hopes and dreams, I hope too can find joy as you reflect on the unexpected ways Christ still comes to us, just as he came to Bethlehem many years ago. As Christmas approaches, I often think about the words of one of my dad's favorite carols,

The happy Christmas comes once more, The heavenly guest is at the door, The blessed words the shepherds thrill, the joyous tidings: Peace, good will.

O wake, our hearts, in gladness sing, And keep our Christmas with our King, Till living song, from loving souls, Like sound of mighty water rolls.

Come, Jesus, glorious heavenly guest, Keep thine own Christmas in our breast; Then David's harpstrings, hushed so long, Shall swell our jubilee of song.

May your Christmas be blessed and filled with the wonder of his love. With joy, Gracia