I was thrilled when our eleven-year-old granddaughter placed a stack of mostly one-dollar bills and a check in my hand. She said, “Here’s some money that I’ve saved up for our mission trip.” Just returning from her birthday party, Ella gave me her birthday money, along with some babysitting money, etc. I could feel my heart welling up inside as I received this unexpected gift.
Several weeks ago, Ella and I attended an informational meeting regarding a mission trip that our church will be taking to the Dominican Republic in June. The leaders shared passionately the love they have for all the children in this impoverished area. This will be Team Xtreme’s third trip to the Dominican Republic. Joining Team Xtreme, Ella and I will work on the construction of a three-story building project, and attend to the needs of hundreds of children who live on the streets in small hut-like homes. After leaving in our car from the meeting, Ella exclaimed, “Yes, I want to take this trip…but raising $14,000 is going to take a lot of time!” She originally thought this was the cost for each of us to go. (It is actually $1,400 per person). She then said, “I don’t need anything for Christmas, so I’ll just ask for money for our mission trip.” I sensed God’s pleasure in this shared moment with my granddaughter.
The gift of money that Ella placed in my hand was only unexpected in my mind, not in Ella’s. Ella planned to keep her vow all along.
As I later began to reflect on this sacrificial gift from Ella ($96), I started to think about another unexpected sacrificial gift that was given to the world, over 2000 years ago.
Although God foretold of His Son’s birth in over 100 prophecies, Christ’s birth came unexpectedly for most, but not for all.
It continues to amaze me that God chose a simple peasant girl named Mary, to give birth to the Messiah, in a humble stable that was home to barn animals. Scripture states that God sent the angel Gabriel to prepare Mary for an unexpected delivery.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold (Luke 1:26-38 – NIV)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
From reading Mary’s response after the angel’s visit, we learn that she was not at all surprised when the time came to give birth to Jesus. Others who received this unexpected gift were: Joseph, the angels, and the shepherds. They all received the glorious gift of the Savior that starry lit night, in the little town of Bethlehem.
Luke 2:4-21 – NIV
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
I love the part where Scripture specifies, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
My Prayer to God
Help me Lord, to treasure up all the unexpected gifts that you give me throughout my life, each day. I praise you and thank you, for the gift of salvation, through your Son, Jesus. And I want to publically thank you for the recent gift of money from Ella, and from others who have recently mailed us sacrificial gifts of money to go toward the cost of our mission trip. They truly are a blessing!
Parents/Grandparents: Teach children to intentionally watch for unexpected gifts, and then encourage them to give thanks when they discover them. Christmas is a great time to start! And as we give thanks, along with our children, I believe that we are in some small ways, giving Jesus a birthday gift.
Some gifts that we may receive throughout the year.
– The gift of time (given by a loved one, a teacher, pastor, friend)
– The gift of friendship (a new friend God brings into our life)
– The gift of labor (mom doing the laundry, dad repairing a toy, grandpa transporting to softball practice)
– The gift of a hug…smile…warm embrace…
– The gift of grace
– The gift of mercy
– The gift of forgiveness
– The unexpected gift of money for a mission trip!
The greatest gift we can expect at Christmas–is JESUS…and His wondrous love. Be sure to watch for this God-given gift in unexpected ways. Then be sure to share God’s gift with those you love, and the “others” who are in need of an unexpected special gift of love this Christmas.
To all my blogger friends…Facebook friends, and so on…
With the love of Jesus, Charmé
Ella, Living Hope Church Christmas program, 2014
Luke 2:4-17 – NIV