Not too long ago, one of my friends said he couldn't remember what he received for Christmas last year. I started thinking, what did I get? Off the top of my head, I could only remember one present, because it came as such an expected surprise.
Ever since our two boys were toddlers their mom, my wife, Kim, let them open just one present after worship on Christmas Eve. Every year, that present has always been new pajamas. Until they hit their teenage years, those pajamas were always a delightful surprise.
A few years ago they finally figured it out. The Christmas Eve gift is always going to be pajamas.
Last year when we returned home from church there were three presents set out for opening. One had my name on it! I was so excited! What could it be? I tore it open. Of course, it was pajamas. What else would it be? There we were, the three Nofel boys holding pajamas and being encouraged by the one Nofel girl to model them.
It was a surprise to receive a Christmas Eve gift, but it shouldn't have been a surprise to find out what that gift was.
Every year we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the Incarnation: The birth of the Son of God into the world. The birthday of Jesus set in motion the most blessed series of events in the history of the world.
God's Son, Jesus the Messiah lived, taught, healed, preached, died, and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of sin, and to assure all believers of eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all other believers forever and ever. Amen.
But, you know, daily that remarkable series of events which I have known about in some way since I was little more than a toddler myself comes as a surprise. When I stop and think about it, it really is shocking.
God became a man to save me! Wretched man that I, God loves me enough to "empty Himself and take the form of a slave" (Philippians 2:7) to live, die and rise to save me!
It is something I truly believe, but it really is surprising every time I think about it. And every time I think about it, I am so grateful for this most wonderful of Christmas/Easter present.
My family, my Presbyterian Church family and I wish you a blessed Christmas. We know that next year, and for the rest of your life, you will remember the most expected surprise gift imaginable: forgiveness and life everlasting in God because his own Son was born, lived, died, and rose just to save you!
The Rev. Steve Nofel is co-pastor of Montezuma Valley Presbyterian Church.