It is Christmastime. And on the heels of an intense, epic year of travel (10 countries) work (moving to Korea for 6 months) and school (finishing graduate school), all I want to do is sleep and rest. I find myself slowing down in a way I never have before. My mental, physical and emotional energy are literally kaput. Traveling during the holidays is always tiring, so I’m extra grateful this year for an approaching stay-cation which includes zero suitcases for me (wahoo).
But, it has me thinking of Mary and Joseph. I wonder if Mary felt this way – exhausted, and sick of being on the move. She was robustly pregnant and had to hop on a donkey and travel to a foreign place to be counted in the census at the end of the year (no thanks). A donkey might as well be seat 49D at the back of the plane in economy in a tiny seat – literally the worst mode of transportation of that time and less than comfortable.
I imagine Joseph’s weighty burden, too – owning the responsibility of caring for, and helping his wife-to-be; wondering where they would stay, and how they would make the long journey together; and not exactly knowing when his divinely conceived child would be born. Let’s be real, it’s not like there was the Bethlehem AirBnB to book in advance with a special friends and family coupon with egg nog and a welcome note waiting inside. They felt entirely uprooted and headed towards the unknown, and upon arrival, were told there was no room in the Inn.
The holiday season does this – it is full of knowns and traditions, but sort of irks with this sense of the unknown and mysterious as we travel towards the unknowns of the new year. It makes you look back at the year and ponder what you did, and what you’re proud of, and even what you wish you could sweep under the rug. But, it definitely holds this tension of anticipation; of both running around and resting and reflection. We go to church and sing ‘Silent Night, sleep in heavenly peace,’ but really our hearts and homes are anything but silent. Your kids aren’t sleeping in heavenly peace, and you aren’t getting any heavenly peaceful sleep because you are probably wrapping presents, ordering last minute gifts, or packing up multiple suitcases for your family. Or maybe you’re wrapping up work, and it’s been an exhausting month at the office, and all the holiday parties, demands, options, and expectations of the season are driving you crazy and making you wish you hadn’t signed up for X, Y and Z activities. How can the weary world rejoice when we are so busy?
Wherever you are at this season – I pray a spirit of Rest over you and that this devotional might bring a slice of that heavenly peace to you so that you can, like Mary, ponder all these things in your heart.
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,[a] just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4)
Remember He Rested
The heart of Rest begins with remembering our Creator’s own commitment to, and celebration of the Sabbath. On the seventh day of creation, He Himself rested from His beautiful work; and, in Exodus 16, we see the Father drawing His people into a practice of rest by believing that He would provide manna from heaven for them. The Lord’s command to the Israelites was, “Gather as much as you need.” Nothing more, nothing less. He asked them to trust Him by not fearfully hoarding the bread of heaven for tomorrow – why? Because He was teaching His children that not only would He provide their daily bread, but also that He would be their daily bread. Therefore, Rest begins with obedience. Do we obey His call to enter into His rest with Him, knowing that He created it for our good, and His glory?
Run into His Rest
If we can believe in the beauty of rest, we soon realize that Rest is not at all passive, but pro-active. When He invites us into His rest, it isn’t so much that He is inviting us to do nothing – He is inviting into the practice of trusting His provision. You see, when the Israelites tried to store up manna for tomorrow, it went bad. In the same way, when we send ourselves into a flurry of activity and relentless chasing of the wind, we are left with manna spoiled by worms – the worms of fear and self-sufficiency. But, if we re-direct that energy and activity to prayer, to speaking words of trust and belief over our hearts, to joining hands with His fellow children, we please Him. Hebrews 4 says: “Make every effort to enter His rest.” In other words, do whatever it takes to jump into His arms and hide yourself in the clef of the Rock. We usually make every effort to earn money, to check tasks off our list, to impress others, to meet deadlines. Ironically, it takes incredible self-will to consciously direct our hearts, schedules, and time to rest. Strive to enter His rest, friends.
Realize His Redemption and Restoration
If we believe God created Rest for our good, and we pro-actively choose to enter that Rest, we then come into communion with the Father in a special way. We are still so that He can redeem our hearts and free us from sin. We are quiet, so He can speak while we listen. We are hemmed in behind and before (Ps 139) so that He can move our hearts while our bodies and minds are stilled. And, when we obey Him by creating this margin in our lives, we are inviting the Holy Spirit to work miracles and act on our behalf – according to our desires and prayers, but also according to His will and perfect omniscience.
Rejoice in His Rescue
The amazing miracle of being still and resting in the Father is that ultimately, we will rejoice in His rescue. Perhaps the problem with resting in the unknown is that we think something terrible is going to collapse over our lives. Recall the irony of Jesus sleeping in the boat. The disciples were terrified and in fact, frustrated with the Savior. They ask him, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Perplexed, they are truly wondering how Jesus could be resting in the midst of a storm and ensuing death. I like to imagine that Jesus woke up smiling – He was totally in control, and soon, stilled the storm and the waves and the wind.
Recently, the Savior prompted the same question in my heart: ‘Emily, why are so mad at me for sleeping in the boat while you are feeling vulnerable? Don’t you know that I already know the outcome? Don’t you know that I will come to your rescue? Don’t you know that I am fighting for you?’
All over scripture, we see this call to rejoice in His coming rescue.
- Isaiah 64 says, “No eye has seen a God besides you who acts for those who wait for Him.”
- Psalm 37 says, “Trust in the Lord, and He will Act.”
- Exodus 14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be Still.”
So, this season, we rest, knowing that the Father has embraced and celebrated Rest from the beginning of Time. We rest, knowing that when we run into His rest, we are freed from our own works and effort. We rest, so that we can realize His redemption of our hearts and restoration of our minds away from fear. We rest, knowing that soon, we will rejoice in His rescue – because the Savior will be born and years of prophesy, promises and anticipation will come to fruition.
During Christmas, this is what we are doing. We are believing that the Silent Word was always Pleading, never Sleeping. We are believing that this baby who on Mary’s lap is sleeping is actually stirring Hope and spreading new Life to the world. We are believing in a heavenly miracle, because the Savior has come to an earthly manger.
We are resting in a heavenly faith, because the grace of God has appeared in hopeful flesh. We are resting, because He actually never slumbers nor sleeps. We are resting because the Son of God who sleeps in the boat with closed eyes actually sees every detail of our lives. We are resting in stillness, because He is in strength is always fighting for us. We are resting, because He rose from the sleep of death into glorious Resurrection, and we also – and the ones we love and long for – will rise again.