God’s many surprises

After Christmas this year, John and I decided to leave the garland and Christmas lights around our lamp post for a while longer after John took down the other exterior Christmas decorations. It looked bright and we enjoyed it, so we thought “Why not?” Well, with John’s back surgery in February, a little while turned into a longer while, and with snow all the way into March, it didn’t look out of place. When April rolled around though, I started thinking: “We’ve got to get that garland down now.” So did John. Leftover Christmas lights in February and March are one thing, but April?

One evening, however, John was simply standing out in the yard and out of nowhere a robin dive-bombed his head. A few moments later he called me out. “Come out here,” he said. “You’ve got to see this.”

“Look,” he said, pointing at the lamp post. There nestled in the Christmas garland was a nest with three baby robins inside. Needless to say, the Christmas garland and lights stayed up another month longer, until the babies flew from the nest, no matter how inappropriate it looked in May.

At first it seemed like a strange juxtaposition that spring robins should make their nest in Christmas garland lit up every night with Christmas lights. But then I changed my mind, for Christmas is, after all, the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, who brings new life to us all. Christmas is all about new life. Why should robins not be born in its symbols?

From the evening of John’s discovery on, we enjoyed our guests who made their home in our lamppost. A look here, a glance there, trying not to upset Mom and Dad too much, we watched them grow until one day they were gone. What a joy and gift!

I understand our “Christmas” robins as one of God’s surprises, which are part of our lives if we stop to see them. Just this week, I saw a groundhog across the parking lot from the church. In the spring and summer 2013, we watch two fawns grow up in our back yard. When I was in Chicago this extremely cold January – and Chicago was much colder than here – I saw two robins – robins in Chicago in January? Really? God often catches us unaware through nature.

But it is not just through nature that God’s surprises appear. I am surprised when I am reading Scripture and old familiar passage suddenly has a new message. I am often caught unaware by children’s innocent honesty and sincere love. And then there is that unexpected act of kindness. God packs surprises everywhere. My prayer for all of us is that we will have eyes to see them. Amen.

Pastor Diann O’Bryant is the minister of Gilman United Methodist Church, 312 Gilman St., Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Christy Hudson at 376-5446 or chudson@mariettatimes.com. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer’s convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.