Friday, September 12, 2008

Surprise!

by John D Ramsey

I remember Christmas shopping for Cara and Daniel when they were four and three respectively. Lisa put items in the shopping cart while I kept the kids distracted. At their ages, it was easy to keep them distracted even through the checkout process. We managed to purchase nearly all of their gifts right under their noses without either child noticing. When Christmas came, Cara and Daniel were surprised to see the gifts that they had liked so much in the stores. Their surprise was always a bit of a mystery to Lisa and to me.

Tonight we went to Target to buy Gabby a bicycle for her sixth birthday. Buying at Wal-Mart was out of the question because their bikes in the colors that Gabby likes are all branded with Disney Princesses, Hanna Montana, or the like. All things are lawful, but in our family, Disney and similar brands are just not expedient. I do not want my girls’ identities to be coupled to someone else’s fantasies.

Target had a very nice Schwinn bicycle that Gabby had noticed before. We wandered around Target until Gabby caught sight of the bicycles and asked me if she could look at them again. She and I left Claire and Lisa and studied the bikes. Lisa and Claire joined us later and we all debated the advantages of the different bikes. Ultimately, we bought a less-expensive model because Gabby did not value the Schwinn more highly than another model.

Gabby does not know that we purchased the bicycle. While Lisa was asking a clerk to take the bike to Guest Services, I was discussing the sizes of basketballs with Gabby a couple aisles over. We left the sports and toy department for girls' clothing. Lisa found some corduroy pants for Gabby to try on. While Gabby headed to the dressing room, Claire and I purchased the bicycle and concealed it in the back of the Explorer.

As Gabby was entering the dressing room, she told Lisa, “You know, they could just buy me a present.”

Lisa asked, “Do you think they will?”

Gabby answered, “No, because they just didn’t think about it.”

When Lisa checked out, she bought a riding helmet that Gabby had wanted. Gabby noticed. When Gabby got into the car she looked into the back almost expecting to see her new bicycle, but Claire and I had done a masterful job of camouflage. Gabby asked Lisa about the helmet, and we explained that she had outgrown her old one; when that happens it is time to buy a new one. The helmet that fit her at Target was on clearance, which was even more reason to grab it up.

Tomorrow, Gabby will be excited to receive her new bicycle. Until then, Claire is basking in the glory of keeping a secret. When we reveal the secret tomorrow, both girls will celebrate even though it is Gabby’s birthday.

As believers in Jesus Christ, God has entrusted with a great mystery, yet we need not keep it secret. In fact, we are responsible to share the secret with those who do not know, and we celebrate with all who come to know the truth.

The mystery we possess is that the God who created everything also lovingly created man in His image. Nevertheless, we, his creation, rebelled against our Creator, and consequently fell under the curse of death. At the appropriate time, the Son, the visible expression of God, became a man. He lived among men experiencing all that we experience, yet without rebellion against the Father. In his life, he expressed both his deity and his humanity. In his physical suffering and death, he endured both the wrath of man against his God, and the judgment of God against man’s sin. On the cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Satisfied by the sacrifice of the Son, the Father raised him to life again.

Because of the Son’s incarnation, his death, and his resurrection, we who were in rebellion against our Creator are now reconciled to him.

We receive this reconciliation by his grace. Some Bible translations refer to grace as a “free gift”, and grace is free in the sense that we could never merit it. Yet accepting God’s grace costs us something. When we receive grace, we die with Jesus Christ to the world and to our former selves. We instead become alive in God and alive to God through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Dying with Christ means that someday we, too, will experience the glory of his resurrection.

Jesus, in John chapter three, and Peter, in 1 Peter chapter one, refer to this reconciliation to God as being "born again" — a new kind of birthday. This is the mystery of the ages, the greatest gift in history, and it is yours to keep — forever.

Now that you know, how will you celebrate?

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