The holidays are approaching quickly, and it seems that every year the Christmas joy gets suffocated by stress and busyness. The consistent strain of Christmas shopping, the overwhelming task of cleaning the house before family arrives, holiday traffic at 3 pm, longer hours at work, the calendar filled with Christmas parties, kid events, traveling, and more.
These things so often distort our meaning of what this season should be about.
What if I told you there was another way of living?
Not just during Christmas time, but in general?
What if I explained to you that the Lord didn’t create you and give you this life just for you to constantly be busy and stressed?
Well, there is another way, and what a better time to recenter our lives on the foundation of Christ than during this season of Christmas.
Exodus 20 reads, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work…For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:8-10a;11) When God handed Moses the ten commandments, God was handing Moses guidelines for the Israelites to follow to glorify Him more effectively, but also because He knew these things would benefit them in their lives.
God did not command rest because He is a mean God, but because He knows that His people need it.
So often, you and I view rest as napping all day, binging a Netflix show, maybe getting away from people for 24 hours, and although these things are beneficial to us, they aren’t what God was talking about when it came to Shabbat or Sabbath. The first celebrated Sabbath took place on the seventh day after God had created after He declared something was good and sanctified. God took the seventh day to reflect on what He had created and celebrated it.
For the Israelite people, God had given them this commandment after He had delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. He knew their souls were in anguish after striving and straining for 450 years in slavery, so He gave them this command to celebrate the Sabbath. To reflect on how God had restored them and to spend a day in deep reverence for Him, in turn, also rejuvenating their bodies and being filled.
In the New Testament, the Sabbath was turned into a new sense of striving and straining as the Pharisee’s created new rules, regulations, or “gezerah’s” (Hebrew for fences) around the Sabbath law. The Jewish people lost their rest again and were stuck in the cycle of work, stress, and busyness. (Sound like anyone you may know?) When Jesus came on the scene, He began to introduce people to the way Shabbat was meant to be; a celebration of the restoration God had done and remembering of His goodness. Jesus demonstrated this by performing many of His healings on the Sabbath, restoring people by bringing them out of their shame and up into righteousness.
Jesus wanted to show the people that they had lost their rest by fixating on the trouble and worries of life, but that there was another way. A better way. A way to live a life filled with the goodness of God is by taking the time to remember the many ways God had restored and redeemed.
You and I live in a culture that is driven by workaholism. We are fixated on performance and excellence, but it often forces us to the deep end of stress and losing sight of our Creator. Think about this upcoming season. We have the opportunity to take our time to remember the prophets prophesying about a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6) There was a God who humbled Himself and became our likeness, in the form of innocence and purity; a baby boy. This detailed story was written so that Jesus would walk the road of Calvary for you so that you may have the opportunity to one day dwell with the saints and worship the Living God forever. We find ourselves in the part of the story of advent, awaiting the return of our risen Savior to come back for His elect.
This truth cannot be lived out if you and I are fixated on the “busy.” We will miss the beauty during this time if we live for the next event on our schedule. So take your time with this advent season; take moments to sit with the Lord and praise Him for how He redeemed and restored your life, starting with the birth of an innocent baby boy. Then, bask in the hope we have that one day, the One who restored us will someday come back and reunite us, bride and bridegroom. And all will be in perfect shalom again.