I got an electric train set one Christmas. Soon after I opened it my dad and I started playing with it. My dad thought he could get it to go a little bit faster, so the screwdriver came out. The train never ran quite right after that. I was okay with it. Getting to spend time on Christmas Eve, playing trains with my dad mattered far more to me than whether the train made its way around the tracks right.
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my parents took time to play with their son. Adults too often fill up their time with what they think are serious matters, or they get busy playing with their own toys, and have no time to play with kids and their toys.
Another Christmas Eve my dad bought my mom an electric can opener. He didn’t always give the most romantic gifts. Dad and I thought we ought to test it out and we tried to see what kinds of metals the opener could cut through. We discovered the opener wasn’t a heavy metal fan. We broke the opener that Christmas Eve. The day after Christmas Dad and I went to the store to get a new opener. We had to promise Mom we wouldn’t open it on the way home, but bring it to her still in the box.
It’s not a good thing to break other people’s gifts on Christmas Eve, but it’s okay to sometimes “color outside the lines.” We can get pretty confined to doing things the way they’ve always been done and just sticking to the ideas some guy put down in the instruction manual. It’s okay to be creative, be imaginative, try things out at times and see what happens. Helpful discoveries have often come when somebody tried to do something differently.
I was with some friends and their son who had a new Hot Wheels set. It came with a power booster that made big boasts about how it could send the cars flying. The kid and I had the same thought: “Let’s see if this power booster can send the cars flying over the couch and on to some track on the other side.” The booster didn’t quite have the juice to do that, but it was fun trying, and surprisingly we didn’t break anything while doing it.
It’s okay to be unconventional sometimes. Christmas is about when God did things that were incredibly unconventional. The King of kings became a baby in the womb of an ordinary teenage girl. The Lord of the universe had a manger for His first bed. The Son of God took on human flesh and became the Son of Mary. The reason He did all this was not the conventional motivation for service. The conventional motivation for why people serve others is because of obligation or people have been good and are deserving. Jesus wasn’t under obligation and we weren’t deserving. Jesus did all that He did because of the unconventional motivation of love and grace.
The Lord loves undeserving sinners like us. He longs to shower grace – unearned blessings – on us. God’s grace is incredibly unconventional and incredibly wonderful. Thanks be to God for His unconventional love!