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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s Scripture verses are these portions of Luke 1:26-38, where the Bible says,   

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”…30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus….38 And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.



In 2009, when Gabriel Hurles turned six, he received a surprise that he would never forget. At first he didn’t notice it. He was so focused on eating his birthday cake that he hardly noticed the giant package in the corner of the room. When another child pointed out the large gift, Gabriel ran over and began to tear off the wrapping. What could it be? It wasn’t a bicycle or any of the other items a six-year-old might want. Surprise! It was his dad, Army Specialist Casey Hurles, home on leave from the war in Iraq. Gabriel and his father had been apart for seven months, so when Casey learned his leave would coincide with his son’s birthday, he hatched a plan to offer one whale of a surprise.[1]

In a world of presents that glimmer for mere moments, Casey Hurles’ present of presence impacted his son forever. Surprises like that have a long lasting effect. Presents like that do that too. In our lesson for today, Mary was surprised at the angel Gabriel’s greeting and message. You might say that she was surprised by grace. But her surprise, even confusion, didn’t get in the way of her trust in the God who is always full of the loving surprise of grace, mercy, and peace.  In fact, the whole Christmas message is one big glorious, gracious, God-given surprise of His coming in the flesh to save the world.

Other religions talk about surprises. But the message of Christmas—Good Friday—Easter is different. The Bible isn't about Karma or we would all be “Karmalized.” The Bible isn't about religion or we would all be religiously inadequate. The Bible isn't about surprises that come from humanity’s best efforts, because even those last merely for a time.  No, the Bible's message is one, big, grace-filled surprise that God Himself promised and then delivered on in the person and work of Jesus for each one of us.

The angel says it loudly and clearly to Mary: "You will…give birth to a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:31-33, ESV).

That first Christmas began with a huge surprise. The God who created the very heavens and the earth was concerned not just for the powerful people of the world, but for all people. Mary may have been most surprised of all that God would concern Himself with someone like her. She was surprised, but she believed. Today, don't just be surprised by that grace this Christmas; believe it for yourself and put your trust in the one born in the manger for you.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, in these weeks of preparation for Christmas, You call us to repentance, to see our need for You. May that repentance burst forth into praises that only faith in You can bring. With that, please bless us all. AMEN.


[1] “Boys wrapped birthday gift is dad back from Iraq,” Associated Press and, 1-30-09

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