Are You Receiving the Surprises God Is Sending

Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist

Is 49:1-6/Acts 13:22-26/Lk 1:57-66, 80

A jetliner was roaring down the runway when, just before takeoff, the pilot reversed engines, slammed on the brakes, and taxied back to the gate. Then it just sat there for more than an hour before finally taking off. A nervous passenger asked the flight attendant what had happened. “Well,” she explained, “the pilot was really worried by a noise he heard in the engine, and it took us all this time to find another pilot!”

+      +     +

A surprise, but not a happy one!

It’s hard to imagine the surprise that the parents of John the Baptist felt when they discovered Elizabeth was pregnant. They were old, really old! And childless! And suddenly there was a baby: Their lives were transformed, and they never would have dreamed it!

God still has lots of surprises, even for the oldest among us — gifts and blessings we’ve not yet even imagined. Many of them are already on the way. But will we receive them? Will we even notice when they arrive on our doorstep? We may, and then again we may not.  It all depends on what we’ve decided to value, what we’ve decided is worth noticing, and what’s not.

An example: If “success” and “winning” are our priorities, we’ll look at people in a very specific, limited way. We’ll see them as potentially useful tools and also as possible adversaries, and we won’t see much else. That way of looking at people screens out their best parts and leaves the gift of a new friend lying unnoticed on the cutting room floor.  God sends us wonderful gifts, but too often we don’t receive them.

Another example: If “peace and quiet” is our ultimate priority, the only real place for us is the grave. But that won’t stop some of us from trying to insulate ourselves from the world.  And the payoff will be empty, cranky lives. We’ll be mad at our neighbors, mad at the guy who wants a hand-out, mad at our kids, mad at the little girl who picks a flower from our yard and then disturbs us by ringing the doorbell to give it to us. Our peace-and-quiet priority will screen out life’s nicest gifts, and leave us narrower and narrower, sadder and sadder, meaner and meaner.

If, on the other hand, we listen to Jesus and make God’s family our top priority, the flow of wonderful gifts will never stop: The upturned face of a child who knows we can be trusted, the confident stride of a troubled kid we helped grow into a doctor, the tender gaze of someone who knows how hard we’re trying, the hug of a friend we rescued from disaster.  So many unexpected gifts will fill our days, because we learned from Jesus how to see, how to love, and how give ourselves as a gift.

God never runs out of surprises.  For those who know how to see and how to love, every day will be full of them, right up to our last day.  Then God’s best surprise will just fall into our hands, because we knew how to see and what to love.

Live what you’ve learned from Jesus, and you’ll have a future full of surprises, a future you never could have dreamed up on your own!