I’m reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, which tells the story of a trip around the USA they took in the 1960’s (Charley was his poodle). Steinbeck’s first stop was in Maine, so early in the book he wrote a good paragraph to ponder. A woman was describing the majesty of the autumn colors of the tree leaves. She said “Autumn can’t be remembered, it’s a surprise every time.” She explained that you think you remember, but the first day it’s in full splendor you realize your memory has faded from the real thing.
I thought of a trip my wife, Sharon, and I took to Colorado a few years ago. The first sight of the Rocky Mountains was stunning – bringing the open-mouthed wonder kind of stare. I think I can still see the mountains clearly in my mind, but another trip and another sight of them would be stunning again – A surprise every time.
I mentioned the woman’s statement to Sharon, and her first thought was that first day you notice the greenness and newness of life in Spring after a long, seemingly dead Winter. You realize your memory has lapsed from the actual level of beauty.
These sights may be so glorious and non-ordinary that the routine of daily life tends to dull our remembrance. Routine begets routine and we end up with a veiled version of the true picture. The surprise doesn’t come when autumn or spring happen, or when we see the Rockies. They are well known parts of God’s Creation. The surprise comes when we encounter the real thing again, the veil is lifted and the actual beauty comes back into focus.
God’s love is well known to believers. It should be no surprise when His mercy and grace reveal it to us. But, we can allow our thoughts of God’s love to become routine – to become a veiled version of the true picture. Then, we talk with someone whose heart has recently been changed by God. The wonder and amazement fill us with joy, lift the veil, and we see the actual beauty once more. We are surprised by the Lord’s gloriousness because we have not remembered it as it is. (The circumstances that bring that same response are too numerous to list!)
I stated above that we shouldn’t be surprised when God’s mercy and grace reveal His love. That’s from considering the many times it has been revealed.
But, there is a basic level of surprise that should always be there for believers. That surprise is that the Holy God of all Creation loves and saves sinners from themselves.
And, on this Christmas Eve, we should remember God’s love in its full glory, and be surprised and thankful and awestruck that God came to Earth for one purpose.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 KJV