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Expect the unexpected

By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor

A few weeks ago, I heard a witness from one of the spiritual giants of our day, Bishop Reuben Job.

His story of faith begins, I was born the year before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression and I grew up on our family farm in central North Dakota with my parents and two older brothers. 

When he was 16, his father had a heart attack. Because his brothers had already left home, Reuben quit high school during his sophomore year to work the family farm.

His next words spoke deeply to me. He said, Amazing to me then and now is that the God that Jesus called his beloved Abba, somehow found me in the isolation of the North Dakota prairie and would not let me go until I responded to the invitation to come near. 

During these days of Advent, we find ourselves responding to the reality that God comes near. No matter where we are, God is always seeking us and inviting us into his presence.

Everyone in the Christmas story is going about life as usual. The shepherds tend to their sheep on the Judean hillside. The innkeeper cleans rooms and checks people in. The wise men study the sky night after night. Even Mary and Joseph are participating in the demands of life as they travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. Everyone is simply living life.

And then God appears, as God always does. They aren t looking for God, but God finds them. That is the message of the Advent and Christmas Seasons. God shows up in the most unexpected times and places.

A few weeks ago one of our South Carolina pastors and his wife were staying a few nights at a motel. The motel clerk told them that she and her husband were struggling financially. In an act of generosity, the minister gave the woman a five dollar bill. When he and his wife got to their room, they regretted that they had not given her more. The minister returned to the lobby and asked the clerk, Do you still have the five dollars I gave to you?  She answered, Yes.  He said, Let me trade with you.  And he took back his five dollars and handed her a one hundred dollar bill. The clerk began to cry in gratitude for the unexpected gift. And you know what? God showed up in a motel lobby that day.

When God shows up, everyone is blessed; those who receive and those who give. During these tender and holy days, as we go about life as usual, it is my prayer that we will expect the unexpected.

No matter where we are, God will somehow find us and we will discover again the meaning of Emmanuel.

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