The Church is presently in the period we call Epiphany, literally 'making known or revealing'. Most of what is being revealed are things about the intentions of God in sending His Son to take on human form, and what he intends for that child to do with His life. It is a period full of surprises, hardly anyone in these stories is who you would think; the Messiah isn't a powerful warrior as promised but a vulnerable baby, the witnesses are not grand folk but shepherds and wise men who are foreigners, not even Jews. The parents chosen for God's only Son are young, ordinary folks, and his arrival turns their lives upside down. The message is clearly not to imagine we can easily understand who God is or what He wants, and accept we often make Him in our image without intending to.
In Narborough Church there is a lovely window showing the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is travelling on the Jericho road and is attacked, robbed and left half dead. A priest, and then a Levite, another powerful and religious family see his need and cross over the road and ignore him. A Samaritan, loathed by Jews, from what had been Northern Israel, saw the man and filled with genuine compassion not only tended to him, but took him to an Inn where he could recover at the Samaritan's expense, indeed the Samaritan promised to return and settle any outstanding costs in due course. Jesus told this parable in response to a question from religious people asking who is our neighbour, and of course like our Epiphany surprises, it is the outsider, the loathed Samaritan who was the true neighbour, proved not by what he claimed but by what he did.
These past weeks have been full of stories about people's poor behaviour, and how it impacts others. I was very struck by someone who quoted the wonderful C S Lewis who said "Integrity is doing the right thing even when no-one is looking", the Samaritan sought no thanks and wanted no witness to his act of mercy, he showed integrity. Epiphany teaches us to expect surprises, let us hope that people will once more find the importance of doing the right thing, even when no-one is looking - I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.