“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11–12, NIV)


It was my eighth or ninth birthday, a few days before Christmas. My best friend came over to the house to celebrate. He brought a nicely wrapped gift, which I couldn’t wait to open.

“Go ahead. Open it!” he exclaimed, grinning from ear-to-ear as he handed me the present.

Before he could bat an eye I had already taken the gift, examined the wrapping paper, and shook it up and down. My curiosity took over as I began searching for clues as to what might be inside.

After a couple of wrong guesses on the content of the gift, I quickly tore off the wrapping paper revealing a small, rectangular box that had a surprising picture on it—a picture of a music cassette holder.

“He gave me a cassette holder?” I wondered to myself, as I only had a couple of cassette tapes.

Polite disappointment set in.

My dear friend kept smiling as I graciously thanked him for the cassette holder case and imagined ways to build it into my expanding Lego city.

“Don’t stop. Keep opening it!” he chuckled.

The box wasn’t the gift. The true gift was inside the box.

I carefully opened the top and pulled out a miniature toy monster truck—a young boy’s delight!

Bethlehem’s shepherds must have experienced an even greater delightful surprise that dark night when the angel of the Lord appeared and announced the good news of the Savior’s birth.

The gift of the Messiah had indeed arrived, but in a very unexpected way—as the newborn baby in a humble manger.

This Christmas, as we celebrate the Incarnation, let us trust God in the mystery of our own unexpected surprises. Let us remember Jesus who is our Immanuel and God’s greatest gift for salvation from sin.