Along with long lines in the mall, peppermint mocha frappe white-claws, and increasingly hyper kids at school, tis the season for Christians griping about everything from Starbuck cups to Hallmark movie channels and of course the annual, “It’s Merry Christmas, you heathen!”
“I thought we decided we weren’t going to exchange gifts?” she mumbled to her husband after receiving a surprise gift from her brother.
Have you ever received a surprise gift from someone that made you feel inadequate or even angry?
If anyone experienced the sturm und drang of waiting and watching for God, it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sitting in a prison cell, he hoped to be released, hoped for the war to end, hoped to spend Christmas with his family, hoped Jesus would descend with a blast of trumpets. Days turned to months and months rolled into years. While we want to think he was always happy, fulfilled by his faith in Christ, his letters show us the struggles of a real martyr in a real world.
I remember getting one the greatest gifts ever when I was 8 years old. It was a Star Wars laser game. It came with a real laser gun and a motorized spinning wheel of storm trooper targets. I could not believe it when I saw it. I ripped open the box and started putting it together. I cannot remember if I even said, “Thanks,” but I knew my parents were pretty happy with my response. As a parent, nothing gives me more joy than to see my kids play and use presents I get them. I do not need any elaborate thanks. Or, another example is when my wife makes her usual wonderful meals, nothing thrills her more than the guests gobbling it down.
I have to just accept the fact, God loves me, whether I like it or not. Once in a while a pastor receives a wonderful phone call from someone who heard the Gospel. Not that he heard it for the first time, but for whatever reason the ridiculous love of God in Jesus Christ finally opened his eyes.
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