And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11, 12 NIV

In Advent, we await a God Who delights in the unexpected.

From the prophet Elijah standing before his cave to the Jews longing for their Messiah, who wouldn’t have expected their mighty God to come with power and glory—in the wind, in the earthquake, in the fire, in a powerful, shining Being who would rescue His people with the stroke of His arm? Who would listen for a still, small voice? Who would look for a baby born to an ordinary couple in a borrowed barn? A child growing up in a hick town in a far corner of Galilee?

It was such a surprise that many just couldn’t believe it. Many still don’t.

So what was God up to?

The most obvious answer was to hide Jesus plain sight. From the beginning, there were enemies who sought His life. No one would think to look for the promised King in a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.

Then, God wanted His Son to live a normal life as we do–to feel human pain and joy, to experience hunger, weariness, suffering, rejection. Now, no matter what we go through, we know He understands.

Yet there’s something deeper still. He did not come in pomp and power as a king because He wants our obedience to grow out of love, not fear. Love is won, not commanded.

He often wins our love by coming to us in ways we don’t expect, at the times we feel lost and lonely—when we need Him the most.

I notice it especially during this season.

Yes, I love the candlelight and carols, the family gathered in church on Christmas Eve, but He touched me once most clearly when we were all alone in a hotel lobby. Or in the kindness of a stranger in Costco. Or in a dark car full of sleeping people as I drove back from Christmas dinner. All kinds of odd times and places.

My prayer for myself—and all of us—in this season is that we have those unexpected, special moments when we know He is present and He loves us.

Still.

LORD JESUS: You promised we will find You if we seek You with our whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) May it be so. Amen.

To be published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” December 15, 2019.