For most people, the Christmas season is the busiest time of the year. In the United States things start to wind up with the Thanksgiving holiday and start building steam until after New Year’s. Our calendars tend to get overly full of events of all kinds (some obligatory and other things we love) or for some of us the calendar seems emptier than we wish. There are hopes and expectations to spend time with family and close friends, and this year that increased after so much locked down in the last several years. Lockdowns and precautions still exist, and families are also still broken for many reasons and those things and times we hope for don’t always come or don’t look the way they once did.
There is more than the usual amount of shopping for some of us to do between more meals and more people to feed than our ordinary days. There are also decisions about gifts to buy, how much to spend, what will please this person or that, and more. All these things and more result in most of us being aware of and saying we are tired – tired of the physical drain and all the energy expended to create the season we want or believe we must have to match what we always had or hoped we had had. Year by year we determine we will do it differently next time and then something like a pandemic shut everything we love down, and we go right back to create what we missed during that season that was unlike any most of us had known.
Even if we hope to focus on the One we are celebrating when we celebrate Christmas, Christ can get lost in the shuffle and we awaken Christmas morning worn out from all the going, doing, and late nights to try to get it all done. In the end. we often spend more than we planned and try to do more than is reasonable.
Maybe one of the reasons it all happens is that we are already living a schedule that keeps us on the ragged edge of tired much of the time and we keep going anyway, trying to push that reality aside as we set another lunch date and agree to serve on another committee. The things we enjoy in too great an amount no longer seem enjoyable to us. Are they now driving us?
“Our wheels spin as we shove more to do in a day with no available daylight hours left, only to find ourselves wanting at the end. Not wanting more to do. No, we have plenty to do. We find ourselves wanting more time to do the things enjoy doing.
We want time to enjoy our kids. We want time to make love to our spouses. We want time to linger over a good meal. We want time to use the bathroom without interruption. We want more time.
But there is no more time. Time is. It is both infinite and finite. It goes on and on. With or without us it will continue. Our number of days are known by God alone. Time chimes in loudly over the roar of our anxious minds, initiating a battle between warring fears and courageous rest.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D.
It can be so easy to believe everything depends on us to get done. It can be easy to try to recreate the Christmas season we had as a kid or the one we wished we had. We forget that none of these things are really about Christmas and rather the traditions we love or want to create.
But during all this, God sees and knows us well. Perhaps that is why one of his very best Gifts of Christmas is rest!
He came to earth in human form to show us who He is and to know us as we are. He knows we strive and often get lost in doing, doing, doing for so many different reasons in many different seasons. He knows we sometimes do that to avoid deeper emotions and wounds that are easier to ignore or set aside if we stay busy. But God’s design for us from the very beginning was to need rest and we need it in every area – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and more.
And guess what? He showed us in his time on earth in the form of a man that we needed to value rest. He was God in human form, and He rested. He slipped away from even those closest to Him for times of rest with God alone. He slept and not only had a great deal of his time spent in focused ministry but also spent time in casual relaxed settings with a few good friends that nourished and replenished Him.
We too often think the solution to our tiredness is more sleep, more naps, more coffee, a weekend away, an idyllic vacation, or something else that will revive every part of us. Some of us know that even though those things are delightful, they don’t always satisfy the need we have for rest because it isn’t just about stopping doing everything or changing the scene. It’s about recognizing what is going on within us and us changing right where we are.
Yes, it is hard to do, but adrenaline and fatigue from too much of it will not work well over time. So, despite the challenges of all there is “to do” this season this year, what would Christ recommend we do to receive the gift of rest and still accomplish all that is necessary for us to do?
The answer for each of us might look a little different. Maybe it starts with sitting alone with ourselves and Christ and talking this through a bit and then listening for his response even if we resist that because we are stubbornly determined to keep going and doing because we or others expect it of us.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)
Yes, there is much to do, and it can be easy to be more like Martha who wished her sister would chip in and help when food needed to be prepared and guests were in the house. But Jesus reminded her of what was most important. He loved Martha and was not unaware of what needed to be done, but He wanted her to consider the moment. He was right there in their midst and would not always be with them in human form and I think Jesus didn’t want her to miss that. Despite some sermons, I am not convinced He was trying to give Martha a hard time. He loved her and wanted her to not miss Him in the doing of what was needing to be done.
“We all need sanctuary, a secure place where protection reigns and comfort is received. We need relief from daily struggles and times of immunity from outside attacks. Sanctuary is not simply a place; it’s a state of being. There we find a sense of security and peace that flows from our connection to God. Sanctuary is where we lay down our fight and rest. In the process, we find our way back home to relationship with God.”Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D.
Try opening the Christmas Gift of rest now. Don’t wait until Christmas morning!