The unexpected knock, the sudden uncertainty, the surprised smiles, the rush of relief mixed with excitement. “You came!”
When you had given up thinking that they would come and were settled into the ache of the hope you could not let go of, that perhaps they might. When you had put the thing you had left by the door to give to them, back into the drawer with a mental note that you knew where it was, if that day ever came. When, in busy times you did not give the thought time to surface, but it did every time you paused, or looked out. That’s when it came.
Sometimes we underestimate the value of our own presence for another. Our calendars attract appointments, morning meetings, children’s commitments, social occasions, work, leisure, sport, and as we balance all the categories and play the ‘busy lives’ card, time disappears. The deathbed quote, not “I wish I had spent more time being busy”, but “I should have spent more time with…”
The surprise visit, the phone call out-of-the-blue, the “We were just passing…” or the, “I was thinking of you, so I thought I would call”, make for special moments. The opportunity to reconnect, to reminisce, and to remember the relationship that draws us together, warms our hearts and lifts our spirits. That we have gambled with potential rejection, the “maybe they won’t be in”, or “perhaps they will not want to speak”, make the warmth and welcome all the more wonderful. For some, much water will have flowed under the bridge, since our last meeting. There will be a million reasons why so much time has passed, but maybe now is the time to chance it.
I hope, like in the festive films, that there will be numerous unexpected knocks this Christmas season, and there will be more impromptu calls, warm welcomes, and surprise conversations. Many saying, “You came!” Not least, because that is what Christmas is about.
To say that for God to come in the body of a baby was ‘unexpected’ is to understate the point. The Jewish people’s identity was centered on their understanding that God was with them. His presence in a cloud of fire had led them out of slavery. That same cloud had inhabited their temple-tent and they had built their lives and homes surrounding it. First in tents in the desert and then in the houses of the temple city of Jerusalem. But so many had rejected God, turned to other Gods, or simply had no time for him, and found themselves overrun, exiled, and torn away from home and land and God’s presence. When finally some did return to rebuild their nation, somehow God was more distant than before. And yet a remnant, a faithful few, held on to the prophets’ promises that God would come again to live among his people.
Most who waited were not there when the unexpected arrived. Four hundred years is a long time to wait. Yet the Bible tells us that some had not forgotten God’s promise, that there were those who were waiting and watching for him to come again. That God was willing, that he still wanted to be present with his people, that he would come as a child, to live with them, as one of them, is incredible to comprehend. After all they had done. But this was the God who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. And so, he came.
Nearly two thousand years have passed since the days that Jesus walked the earth with those he called his family and friends. He left them promising not only to be with them but to return again one day. Since that time a great deal of water has passed under the bridge of human history, and yet, as the closing verses of the bible declare, he is coming back and there are still those who are hoping it will be soon and are listening out for the unexpected knock.
May I encourage you this Christmas, to take the risk of making that surprise visit or unexpected phone call, and be a blessing to others with your presence. If you have not yet met the God who loves to be with us, may I encourage you to welcome him into your life and home, and if you, like me, are longing for Jesus to return again, may I encourage you to call out with all the saints, “Come, Lord Jesus!” How good will it be on that day, when together we will exclaim, “You came!”