One type of gift that can be received at Christmas is the unexpected gift. It’s the type of gift that we don’t know we need, but really end up enjoying.
Most gifts are unexpected, unless you specifically instruct expected givers exactly what to purchase. However, for those that know us well, it goes both ways, as those gifts to us can be a reflection of the giver. My Mom (and perhaps most mothers?) is a person for whom I struggle to find the right, unique gift. The gift I’ve found that suits her needs best is a desk calendar, and each year I create one from my travels throughout the year. Mom knows she’s getting a calendar, she may not know what pictures will be in it, but it’s not a big surprise when she receives it.
We all have a list of people with whom we expect to exchange Christmas gifts. We may receive a gift from someone outside of that list, but those unexpected gifts are not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the actual gift itself when you open it. The kind that makes you pause when you realize it’s something that you wouldn’t have ever bought for yourself, and you’re not quite sure what to do with it. I’m not talking about ugly sweaters or sports equipment you will never use. Unexpected gifts can be anything: a wearable article, a kitchen gadget, a book to read, a tool for a hobby, or even a knick knack. What makes the unexpected gift special is that it fills a void that we didn’t realize was there.
Christmas comes every year, yet it can be an unexpected gift. We are all familiar with the Nativity as a story, but have we opened up our hearts to the gift God has given us all — His Son as Savior? A recent Advent reflection reminded me that unless I realize my sinfulness and that I need to be saved, Jesus’ coming becomes just a story. Jesus did come at a particular point in history, not when everything was right in the world, but in the midst of hardship. He came in poverty to share the burdens of life with all. He came not just for the people of that time, or for those who went before them, but for all people and across all time. Jesus came for you and for me, knowing that we are sinners and that we turn away from Him on a regular basis. Yet He does not give up on us. His mercy and forgiveness are unexpected gifts from a God of Love.
Advent is a time of preparation for receiving the gift of Jesus Christ. One way to prepare is to look at all the gifts God has blessed us with and discover those unexpected gifts among them. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge our weaknesses and ask for the Lord’s help in the sacrament of reconciliation — an unexpected gift of His grace.