Isaiah 64:1-4. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
If you name your favorite Christmas movie, chances are, the plot involves something unexpected. Kevin McCallister is left home alone. The Grinch steals everybody’s stuff. The red-nosed reindeer outcast saves the day. Extended family shows up at the Griswolds’. Buddy discovers his true geneology. What makes these stories so captivating every time we watch them is how they twist and turn, who becomes the unlikely hero, and what the characters learn along the way.
Yet in our own lives on the other side of the screen, the unexpected tells a bit of a different story. Its undesirable, anxiety-inducing fanfare introduces chaos and disappointment into our lives, especially when people and situations show up unannounced or things become very different than what they once were. Christmas usually comes with expectations. And when it doesn’t look like those expectations are going to be met, often we assume the worst.
But we are forgetting that God is a God of the unexpected.
Isaiah’s words reveal a God who is not contained in the skies, impeded by landforms, or limited by human beings. God is a God whose best handiwork is unexpected, who does awesome things with the unexpected. Jesus himself later appears on the scene in an unexpected place, among unexpected people, from an unexpected and imperfect family tree. Isaiah reminds us that God speaks and acts in unexpected ways, but always on behalf of those who wait for him.
If Christmas is looking different this year, different than what you would like or what you would expect, have no fear. Look around. Listen. If there’s anything that Advent reminds us, it’s that we CAN expect the unexpected to create room for us to encounter God in a totally new way.
Are you listening?