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  • Shawn Thornton

Hope Often Surprises Us

Sunday - December 20th

"Hope is Here" Advent Devotionals - Day 20

Scripture to Read Today: Luke 2:8-16


So the shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Luke 2:16

"Please tell Specialist John Thornton he is a father. Specialist Thornton's wife, Beverly, gave birth to his first son, Shawn Russell Thornton, on December 20th."

The radio operator sending the message in 1966 did not know that the radio operator on the other end receiving the Red Cross message in an army unit in Vietnam was Specialist John Thornton - the new father. That's right; my Dad had been sent to Vietnam when my Mom was about three months pregnant. Working as a radio operator for his Army unit, he was familiar with receiving Red Cross messages from home and relaying them to the appropriate soldier. This time the message was for him.

He was pleasantly surprised to hear the news from home. What soldier serving in the Vietnam War would not have sensed some hope from the birth of their newborn baby back home?

Dad would not be there when my Mom brought me home in a felt stocking made by the volunteer Ladies Auxiliary of Saint Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana. The red felt stocking with a white border across the top had a simple label along the top that said, "Baby Boy Thornton."

It would be another six or seven months before Dad came home from the war. By that summer of 1967, I had outgrown the felt stocking made for a newborn baby. At 54 years of age, I am not sure my right foot could fit that old felt stocking.

Getting that message as a radio operator surprised my Dad. Taking her days-old son home in a stocking surprised my Mom. The Bethlehem shepherds were surprised by angels announcing to them the Savior's birth. They were further surprised to find the baby in a feeding trough, just as the angels had said.

Hope often comes in surprising ways. God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He intentionally does things differently than we as human beings expect (1 Corinthians 1:27). I think God uses stables, mangers, and shepherds to get our attention - to surprise us with hope. He gets our attention by zigging when we expect Him to zag.

Maybe you have been defining what hope would look like for you in this crazy year. Perhaps you have expected God to show you hope in a particular way this Christmas. Step back and notice that God uses the things we would never expect to surprise us with His hope!

Hope often comes in ways we never imagined. Notice the hope of that baby in Bethlehem and what He means in your life today!


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