God’s plan almost always surprises us

Curtis Shelburne

Does God ever do anything just like we’d expect him to?

A world to save, a Gift to give, a Baby to send . . .

And the greatest Christmas Present ever given is all wrapped up in swaddling cloths and laid in a feed trough.

And the mother of the King is a poor Jewish girl whose wedding, the thin-lipped gossips around Bethlehem would be quick to tell you, was much less than a discreet nine months before the birth. Mark it down—those gals could count to nine just as quickly as their modern counterparts.

And the birth announcement for God’s Son? It was proclaimed by angels whose glory split the skies, but (“who’d-a-thunk-it?”) the amazing proclamation was not made at a grand meeting of pompously assembled and well-robed religious moguls of the Judean Diocese or the Eastern Palestinian Convention or the Greater Bethlehem Ministerial Association.

No, it was proclaimed to terrified shepherds whose collars, if they’d had such, would have been decidedly blue, whose theology if you could call it that, had more to do with the equivalent of Starr Cut Plug tobacco than it did with heavenly lights. These were simple and rough-hewn men who’d spent lots of time on hills herding sheep and precious little time at all in synagogues.

They’d seen angels? Yeah, right. The folks back in town knew full well that the last time old Issachar had seen an angel he’d found him at the bottom of a wineskin.

But not this time.

Oh, some of them had been a bit sleepy just a moment before, but that had changed in a heartbeat, in the blink of an eye, as the night sky exploded with light and angels ripped apart the firmament to emblazon Heaven’s message across the shimmering sky.

God’s promise of salvation and the coming of the great King had been made long centuries before. Generations of kings had come and gone. And generations of shepherds had kept watch over their sheep on these same hills while Bethlehem slept below and, slumbering uneasily with the little city, a careworn world waited for God to rouse it with good news.

But then the message of Heaven came. The message of your salvation and mine. And it came to shepherds.

Who’d a thunk it?

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at