I love Christmas, I really do! It’s my favorite holiday and my favorite time of year because the air is charged with a different kind of spirit and expectation that something’s coming. Even though I love Christmas and I’ve been listening to Christmas music since way before it was socially acceptable to do so (sorry to anyone who has ridden in my car in the last month), it still seems to sneak up on me, and then pass with more of a fizzle than a bang… so, in expectation of Christmas, and in an effort to get my mind right for the holidays, I am going to do a short devo every day leading up to Christmas built out of some of my favorite Christmas carols. I hope you’ll join me for some or all of these next 12 days of Christmas!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
As a senior in college, I still get Christmas break (if you’re a real adult please don’t hate me for that haha). Every year my breaks get shorter and less relaxing, but the school part is out right now, so that’s at least nice. I remember when I was younger, Christmas and summer breaks were what I lived for. You’d sit in class for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, just counting down the days until you could watch TV and play video games all day every day. It was like a dream. And then like a dream that ends with a train wreck, school would start back up and you’d start counting down the days until the next break.
When I was a kid I built up the Christmas break in my mind to be this great, exciting thing that was going to fill all my heart’s longings and expectations. It would start, and then it would slowly but surely let me down and fizzle out into boredom. As adults we do this too. Most of us don’t have a full-on Christmas break, but we do still have vacations and time off. We look forward to it like kids in school, and we make all these plans for how we’re going to use it. Maybe you’ve got a ski trip, or you’re going to see family, or maybe you’re staying in town and you finally get a chance to relax. We tell ourselves things like, “This year is going to be different,” “We’re finally going to put the distractions away and act like a family,” or “I’m actually going to be able to put my feet up and enjoy myself.” I’m going to say something that will probably sound cynical, but it’s also true: Your vacation will probably let you down. Your family time will probably let you down. Your exciting plans will probably let you down.
Sorry for the negativity, but it’s just the reality of our attempts at breaks. They let us down. How many of us have gone on a vacation only to come back more tired than when we left? It happens to most people. We build our expectations and tell ourselves that the time off is going to fill us up and fulfill our desires, but we’re looking for fulfillment in the wrong places. We are looking to get things from vacation and family (and frankly laziness) that we can only truly get from God.
Here’s the truth about rest: Rest is commanded by God (Exodus 20:8-11). True rest is a gift from God that is only found in God (Hebrews 4). Working long hours for our own security is in vain, we should rest and trust in God since rest is a gift from Him (Psalm 127:2). Jesus is where we should take our burdens to find true rest (Matthew 11:28). Jesus is where we should go to be filled (John 6:35). Real and lasting satisfaction is found in God, not in the things of this world (Psalm 16:11).
So what does this mean for us. How should we approach Christmas vacation knowing that true rest and satisfaction is found in God alone? I have three thoughts on this. (1) Let Jesus and the gospel be at the center of your rest. The only reason we can truly rest is because we know we have been set free from condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1). Find time to daily dwell on the reality and implications of Jesus’ coming, life, dying, and resurrection, and let that be what you truly rest in. (2) Make daily time for reading scripture. I know that the holidays are hectic, but true nourishment comes from the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Luke 4:4). Psalm 1 says that a person rooted in scripture is like a tree planted by streams of water. Being rooted in God’s Word fills us. (3) Make daily time for intentional prayer. The Bible tells us to take our worries to God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Conversation with our father is where we let Him come along side us to carry our burdens and calm our fears.
God is the God of rest. He is where we can go to be filled up and satisfied this holiday season. In the midst of the business of Christmas, He helps us the remember what truly matters. In the distractions of a season built around consumerism and binge eating, He reminds us that only He can truly fill and satisfy us. When we are looking to everything else to make this holiday season memorable and special, He turns our eyes to His son, the only one offering fullness of life.
Pray: God help me to make this season about you. Help me to look to you for real rest, and remind my heart that the world can’t offer what you can. Father thank you for Jesus, and the knowledge that the true and greater rest will be with you in eternity. Help me to love you more this Christmas season. Amen.