December 16, 2014
While shopping for a birthday gift for my two-year-old niece I was surprised to find a jack-in-the-box. I thought “Wow! They still make these!” It reminded me of how old this toy is, timeless it seems. My parents, with great joy passed on their own jack-in-the-box to me and my siblings and I bought one for my daughter. Perhaps you can hear the tune running through your head “…round and round the mulberry bush…”
The toy is effective because of its element of surprise. If the crank handle is turned enough an odd looking character will leap from the closed lid. Of course we don’t have to engage this toy, it’s an option. However, the goal is to get to the surprise that is somehow mysteriously new each time.
Navigating life this time of year can feel like cranking a handle over and over with the daily grind sprinkled with nuances of surprise. The reminder to send cookies to school at 10 p.m. the night before, or the Christmas party scheduled for the 10th that somehow shows up on your calendar as the 17th. Surprise, surprise round and round we go.
In the midst of an often chaotic time of year keep alert for the sights and sounds of God that call us to bear in mind the holiness of the season. Jesus pops up in unexpected places to bring us comfort and joy not just now, but throughout the year…if we only pay attention.
The jack-in-the-box may seem timeless but consider this “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) May the word of God surprise you over and over again.
The Rev. Angela F. Shepherd is the canon for mission for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.