By Chris Surber
The snow came unexpectedly early this year. The Christmas music was on the radio before I even had time to make Thanksgiving plans. While some scoffers complain about an early winter, I am taking my kids’ snow sledding while listening to “The Grinch” on the radio. I’m loving every minute of it! The essential message of Christmas is that God descended to earth. He came wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger in ancient Bethlehem with a mission to rescue humanity from itself. That is a message I will gladly celebrate every day of every season!
I recall the unexpected beauty of snowfall on Christmas Eve, in 2014. I was then the Minister at Cypress Chapel Christian Church. It is a little old country church founded in the swamps of Southern Virginia in the 1750s. Earlier that year, I had announced that our family would be relocating to Haiti at the end of the year to establish our work of Christ-centered compassion that continues in that place. That was to be our last Christmas there with a loving semi-rural church community. We had a wonderfully well-attended candlelight Christmas Eve service. There was a sweet spirit among the people, even if a bittersweet sense of our impending departure.
When the service concluded and we had all blown out our candles, the congregation shuffled out of the meetinghouse doors, down the steps, and into the grass parking lot surrounded by trees and quiet fields of nearby farms. As we departed that old quintessential country church, the lightest snow began to fall. It was amazing! A little at a time children began to notice as they squealed with joy. Adults gasped. A few silent tears filled elderly eyes. As the snowfall increased, we laughed and hugged. People commented on how incredibly peaceful and beautiful and unique the experience was.
That snow Christmas Eve is something I’ll never forget. It was a gift from God as all beautiful things are. “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17 NLT) I’m convinced God gave me that gift on that night to remind me of His constant presence and prevenient love in the context of every moment of our lives. It was needful knowledge in a time of intense transition and uncertainty.
No matter what you are going through in this season of your life, there is yet a God in heaven who knows your name. He knows our needs. He created us. He is still calling us home at Christmas but no longer from a manger in a stable. His resurrection love is present and available in every corner of the globe to every person of every tribe and tongue.
This Christmas remember this: the unexpected inexplicable love of God in Christ covers the world with a gentle offer of relational love with our maker. It is like a quiet blanket of snowfall at midnight. It speaks of powerful peace in the subtlety of His gentle offer of eternal love. It points us to the ultimate aim of the coming of Christ. Peace on earth.
Dr. Chris Surber is Senior Minister at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, MI. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. Visit him online at www.chrissurber.com