Not Always What We Expected - Matthew 7:7-11 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
That doesn’t seem like a very Christmassy Scripture passage does it? I mean this is the time of year when we gather for Christmas messages and we expect to hear about Quirinius and Bethlehem…Mary and Joseph…shepherds and angels…and maybe a wise man or two or three (depending on what Michael and the other Chris-myth busters tell us). Yet here I am talking about asking, knocking, and seeking…alone with bread and rocks, fish and snakes. Well, you’ve got to think about it…this season is all about asking (Santa), knocking (on doors as you go visiting or caroling), and seeking (that elusive perfect present).
Going back to the asking part…particularly the asking Santa part…I think I am going to petition congress to pass a law that a child may only speak to Santa once per year. Over the course of my life I have found that Santa’s head has to be spinning. When I have had children visit Santa one more than one occasion during the year, because he keeps showing up, at the mall, at the school, at the church, I have had almost every child change from one visit to another visit exactly what they were asking Santa for…and each new visit reveals something that they had not mentioned before, or any time in the last six months. We’ve had lots of conversations with our kids over the years that when you tell Santa what you want, it is not like giving Santa a shopping list or a construction list of just exactly what he will be expected to provide. We tell our kids that they are just offering suggestions to Santa and that sometimes Santa just gets some of those things. We’ve also told the kids that sometimes Santa doesn’t go with any of the things on the list and ends up doing something he thinks will be even better.
I remember about fourteen years ago there was a little boy who knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas. It didn’t matter how many Santas he saw, the request was always the same. He wanted a drum set. That was it. That was all he wanted. A drum set. Every time someone would ask him what he was getting for Christmas he would tell them a drum set. Christmas morning came. He came out, I know, looking for a drum set…only there wasn’t one. There were a few small gifts from Santa for him, but no drum set…only a note left on the tree. Santa had written him a note explaining that he felt it would be better if he waited a little while before getting a drum set, but in the meantime he was leaving him the gift of piano lessons. While there might have been a tinge of sadness that morning, I don’t think there has been a moment of regret by him, us, or many others in the years gone by that Santa gave him piano lessons rather than a set of drums.
Sometimes we get what we want…sometimes what we get is not always what we want. Sometimes what we think we want is not exactly what we need to receive.
For centuries the people of Judah…God’s people… had waited for a Messiah. They were tired. They were tired of being invaded by one enemy after another. They were tired of having to be in exile in first one place then another. The prophets had predicted that a Messiah would come. They knew that despite the darkness around them a light was coming. They knew that God would not leave them. They knew that God would raise up the Messiah…the one who would rule from the throne of David forever. They also knew just want they wanted and what they expected in this Messiah. He would come riding into down on a white stallion, sword by his side, commanding an army of angels. He would uproot the powers that were in control and lift Israel to its rightful place as above all other nations. When this Messiah came they knew they would no longer be subject to the powers of the day…they would no longer be ruled by Syria or Babylon or Persia or Greece or Rome…instead, those nations would bow to them. That’s what they cried out to God for…that’s what they wanted…that’s what they expected…. That’s what they asked for…that’s what they knocked on the doors of heaven for…that’s what they sought in everyone who would lead a rebellion against the powers that governed them…and…God sent the Messiah.
And yet what they God was not exactly what they expected…
He didn’t come riding into Jerusalem on a white stallion, but instead rode into Bethlehem in a young girl’s womb as she likely rode on a donkey. They didn’t proceed to any royal palace, but instead found themselves rejected by Joseph’s family and relegated to cave full of livestock. When he was born, he wasn’t laid son the finest silk sheets, but on the rough hay of a feeding trough. He wasn’t raised learning the skill of wielding the sword and spear of a soldier, but rather the hammer and nails of a carpenter. When he began gathering His followers he didn’t proclaim a message calling for the overthrow of Rome, but instead began preaching about loving your enemies, doing good to those who persecuted you. He didn’t hobnob and network among the elite and wealthy, but instead spent time with the filth of the towns. And when he challenged the way of the religious elite and proved not to be the warrior-king they expected Him to be, they crucified Him.
It wasn’t until three days later when an empty tomb was found that it was revealed that while God did not give them what they expected…what they thought they wanted…He gave them exactly what they needed…He gave us exactly what we needed…freedom from enemies far greater than Babylon or Rome…we found freedom from both sin and death. There is no better gift that God could give.
Some kids ask for a drum set and get piano lessons…
Some children may ask for bread and fish…and we know those parents are going to give them a rock or a snake…
Some folks may ask for a warrior…thanks be to God…he knew and knows what we need, and we remember at Christmas, He gave us a Savior!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!