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Disheveled Theologian: Theological Stocking Stuffers, Week 3 -- Secrets and revelations

When I was a kid, I always thought that, when it comes to stockings, there couldn’t be anything better than unpacking the carefully-filled sock on Christmas morning. Well, that is mostly true. However, I had no idea until I was a grown-up, how fun it also is to fill the socks the night before and hang them by the chimney with care. You put the heavy things on the bottom, fill in the nooks and crannies with smaller items, then add the bulky things in the middle and at the top you put the cutest items that will overflow over the edge, revealing themselves the next morning to their grinning owners.

There are no secrets with those topmost items, but that’s OK, because they then become the guardians of the hidden things within. The very lack of secrecy at the top makes the secrets below all the more exciting.

When Jesus was born there were a few secrets — a few “unknowns” surrounding his birth and his life to come — but there were also some revelations even from before his conception, facts which gave his birth added wonder.

Jesus had a cousin, John, born just a few months sooner, who shared a similar birth (and pre-birth) story. In both cases there were secrets revealed and further secrets kept until the time was right in the years ahead. Both John and Jesus were named before birth and named, no less, by God himself, as revealed by an angel. Even prior to their naming, both conceptions were announced ahead of the actual event as was the gender of each child. There were no surprises in the Zechariah/Elizabeth and Joseph/Mary households.

Except that there were. Many.

For one thing, neither birth was expected nor even hoped for at that point in their parents’ lives. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old. Far to old to have children, especially to a woman who had never given birth in her life. And then there was Mary. Unmarried. Righteous. A virgin.

Surprise!

Yes, the conception of both boys came as a complete surprise to their parents. But the boys came with directions, as it were. Names. Prophesies. Expectations.

Known and unknowns.

Secrets and revelations.

“You are to call him John,” Luke 1 reads. “He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

“Wow, that’s cool,” his parents must have thought. But then, after further prophesies about him and the silencing/loosening of Zechariah’s tongue, comes this: “Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.” Nobody understood why these amazing things had happened surrounding John’s birth.

And then there’s Jesus, about whom the angel said, He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Again, “Wow, that’s cool….” But then came this, in Luke 2, shortly after Jesus’ birth: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

Ummm…what?

Secrets and revelations. Surprises and hidden depths. Promises and prophecies.

Perhaps, as we open our stockings this Christmas, we can take a moment to consider the theology hidden inside our lowly socks.

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.

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