Skip to main content

"Hang on a minute! That was a bit unexpected"

This was the catchphrase of the church we visited on Christmas day where the Scriptures were open at Luke 2:1-12. The point being that the LORD coming in the way he did was a bit of a surprise... and I do see where that's coming from. And I am thankful the Scriptures were open, songs full of gospel were sung among a people who I trust know the Father, Son and Spirit - likely far better than me.

Yet the notion that the Christmas story was a surprise, that Christianity is a surprise doesn't quite ring true.

If you're the god-of-this-age or believe in a philosophers-god (god = people but very big) then it's not what you'd think 'god' would be. This is a distinction worth remembering. But Luke's point in his gospel, along with the other evangelists, seems to be exactly the opposite - that this Jesus came as he did is exactly what we should have expected, after the LORD had spent all history setting the stage and writing the grammar of the gospel, laid out in the Old Testament. This is no new idea. The Christ had long been expected, and this Jesus is that Christ.

So, "a bit unexpected"? No, methinks not. Part of what makes Christianity so different from pop-religion, this is the way of the Triune God, it always was. No surprise if you have the books of Moses open and your eyes open. God does what he gives us reason to expect he would do. He gives and serves and blesses and loves, which is unlike us but very like him.

He has always been doing this, and he wrote it in Moses and the prophets. He doesn't do things unexpectedly - he's not unreliable and unpredictable - he shares his plans with his prophets. This isn't 'putting God in a box' but about knowing God to be one you can cling on to and whose love wont fail you. The Triune God can be trusted, and when God promised that people would find the Christ in Bethlehem, the Saviour, it wasn't a shock but exactly what he'd promised he would do - and his promise rings onward and outward, even to save stupid, arrogant people like me, to bring me to himself forever.

The unexpected thing to do with that is to receive this love, and pour myself out for others, which is senseless if you have a different gospel, but the only reasonable thing when it comes to the Christian gospel.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.


  1. Yeah. We had "surprise!" a lot where we were too. Hark the herald is great, but "veiled in flesh"?

  2. Paul,

    Try Hebrews 10:20 in the KJV and you may be happier with "veiled in flesh".

  3. Veiled in flesh could be misread but I'm not sure its terrible. "Veiled" could be under-read but it does at least affirm both humanity & divinity.

  4. On the other note, why is the surprise angle so appealing?

  5. cos due to idolatry, lies & unbelief are so pervasive, we'd never think it possible. The surprise is we can be set free from idolatry.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

"Big eyes full of wonder"

Books. Fiction. Libraries. Second only to churches as are the best gateways in your community to ultimate reality and new possibilities.

Our local library has just re-opened after refurbishment, and I love that our boys have spent several mornings there during the summer holidays, discovering some wonderful new stories.

I realised a few months back that I wasn't reading enough fiction. My work necessitates reading a lot of non-fiction, a mix of historical and contemporary thinking, biblical studies and theology. But fiction is the cinderella. Easily overlooked, and yet able to awaken my imagination and show me the way things are meant to be.

So I've picked up a few more lately - bought and borrowed. Not every book attempted flies, and that's ok. These have been winners though.

Ink. This is Alice Broadway's debut novel. It's young adult fiction and tells the story of Leora who lives in a world where the events of your life are tattooed on your skin. Nothing gets hid…

Uniquely Matthew

Reading gospel accounts in parallel is sometimes used to blur the differences in perspective between the evangelists, seeking to harmonise the texts and find a definitive historical account of what happened. No such thing exists because every account is biased and limited. You simply can't record everything. You have to hold a vantage point. And that's not a problem.

Matthew, Mark and Luke take a very different vantage point to John who was of course an eyewitness himself of the events. Comparing the text of Matthew, Mark and Luke across the death and resurrection of Jesus yields two steps.

Firstly, the common ground. All three accounts tell of...
Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross…. · Jesus labelled as King of the Jews…. · Criminals crucified with Jesus… · Darkness in the daytime… · Jesus' loud final cry… The women who witnessed Jesus death, and Jesus' burial… · The tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Arimithea… · The women who went to the tomb on the morning of the…

Songs we're singing in Church

Christians are a singing people, it's part of what we do when we gather.

Our church meets morning an evening on a Sunday - normally using 5 songs in each service. So, over the year that's about 520 song-slots available. The report from the database system we use ( tells us that in the past year we've sung about 150 different songs.

Our current most used song has been sung 11 times in the last year, just under once a month. Our top 10 are used about every 6 weeks. By #30 we're talking about songs used every two months. The tail is long and includes loads of classic hymns from across the centuries, plus other songs from the past 40 years, that we have used around once a term or less.

1. Rejoice - Dustin Kensrue

2. Come Praise & Glorify - Bob Kauflin

3. Man of Sorrows - Hillsong

4. Cornerstone - Hillsong

Rejoice was a song I didn't previously know, along with a couple of others that have quickly become firm favourites for me: Chri…