My personality holds one particularly amusing paradox: I think it’s funny to scare someone, but I don’t like being scared. I have never figured that one out. Many years ago, my family bought me a Christmas gift that I had been wanting, as my grandsons would say, “all my life.”

I wouldn’t buy it for myself; I thought our family needed many other things before I should indulge in something I wanted. For several years I had been looking through catalogues and browsing through stores, looking at stereo speakers. I picked out the exact ones I wanted to hook up to my television.

My family decided to do something “extra special” for Dad that Christmas. They made their plans obvious by wanting to be educated on what made those speakers so special. What was the model number, and what would be the best place to purchase them? I am a little dense sometimes, but not that dense. I knew they were going to get me those speakers.

On Christmas Eve my family got extremely giddy, especially the boys. I could tell they couldn’t wait to give their dad his special gift. I tried my best to appear calm. The more I tried to delay opening it until Christmas morning, the more frustrated they got. I had just recently read in Eph. 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children,” and it came to my mind at that moment. Since I didn’t want any of us to sin on Christmas Eve, I knew I should open the box. “Give us a minute!” they yelled and left the room. “OK, Dad, you can come on in,” they yelled next.

I walked into the next room and saw that only the glow of the Christmas tree lights brightened it. In the middle of the floor sat a huge box. My heart raced, and I struggled to fight back the tears. “What a wonderful family I have; they have sacrificed so much to get me this gift.” At first, I didn’t want to touch the box, beautifully wrapped with a golden bow. But again, Eph. 6:4 came to my mind, so I untied the bow,  reached into the darkness—and something came flying out of the box and grabbed me.

I screamed like a madman, panicking. My heart hung in my throat, arms flailing, feet bouncing as my lungs belted out their fright. My mind couldn’t operate fast enough to process what was happening. In the box was not my stereo speakers, but my youngest son, Caleb.

As I tried to calm my pounding heart, the rest of my family lay on the floor, rolling with side-splitting laughter. “Did you see Dad? Did you see how high he jumped?” And then another round of laughter would break out.

Even to this day, when this incident comes up, my family laughs hysterically. I can’t seem to find the humor in it. I did get the stereo speakers the next morning, but I don’t know if getting the worst scare of my life was worth it.

I think of that scare every time I read Luke 2:8-12, “and they were terrified.” I think I might know how they felt.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I think the shepherds’ surprise was a little different than mine. The shepherds were surprised by the glory of the Lord, and I was surprised by—I’d rather not say.

It’s understandable to be surprised when our kids pop out of a present on Christmas Eve, but why is it always a surprise when God shows up? Has He not said over and over that He would send us a Savior? He promised to send Jesus, the One who turns back the curse of sin and gives us eternal life. But when God shows up with the gift of His Son, we, like the shepherds, seem surprised.

Of all the presents we receive on Christmas, Jesus is the one gift most people don’t ask for. Even though He’s as close to us as my son is to me, He can still show up in unexpected places. May God surprise you and your family this Christmas!

Now, I need to find myself a really big box …