“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, The Message
Christmas. A time of festivity, of celebration. A time of reflection, peace and love. A time of joy, of lights sparkling in the darkness – like the eyes of children sparkle with wonder at it all. A time of gathering in as family and friends, of slowing down and remembering again with awe the powerful yet gentle beauty of the Christmas story.
At least, in an ideal world this is what Christmas is. Somewhere in the recesses of our minds and hearts we all sense that this is the real “spirit” of Christmas and if we’re honest, it’s what our hearts long for.
But for many of us (dare I say most of us), this is rarely our experience of the Christmas season. Lulled into a false sense of what Christmas is about by the songs of the advertisers and marketers, we work harder, longer to have that extra “Christmas gift money” and we stress and scrimp and save or give in to the stress and enter into debt, that debt then hanging over us like a dark cloud. Then all the parties start – and there is the pressure to be at every one.
Our church diaries only add to the burden as our diaries are suddenly filled to bursting with Advent services and carol services and Nativity programs and Christmas concerts and charity fund-raisers and Christmas banquets for the less fortunate. And we feel the weight of expectation to be at every single one, often because we are the ones doing the organising and serving. And we say it’s all for our community, our town or city so that they can experience the light, peace and hope of Jesus at Christmas, which of course makes us feel even more guilty if we’re not present at everything and that we are secretly feeling anything but full of peace and hope.
We begin to feel an unconscious pressure and responsibility to be the Messiah, forgetting He has already come, and we are meant to be celebrating that very thing.
Somehow, especially when I read the verse above, I don’t think this is how Jesus would want us to celebrate His birthday.
What could it look like this Christmas to change the pace and rhythm of our lives? What if rather than flying through this Advent season, with all the joy and wonder becoming simply a blur and falling exhausted the other side of Christmas, we chose to intentionally lean into and journey slowly through Advent?
What if we chose to draw close to Jesus’s side and journey through this season in step and rhythm with Him, allowing Him to lead us and teach us how? He didn’t say we wouldn’t work, He just said to walk and work with Him, to learn “unforced rhythms of grace.” And the wording here is key – for He doesn’t say work “for” Him, He says “walk and work with Me.”
I have personally felt both challenged and inspired by my Father who is so kind and so wise to very intentionally live differently this Advent season, to really lean into all that it means and to pause and celebrate. I invite you to respond to that challenge with me.
This Christmas, let’s stop trying be in step with the culture around us, stop responding to the songs of the marketers & advertisers, stop trying to be the Messiah to our families, friends, communities, towns and cities. And instead, let’s allow Jesus to be all that He came to be and join in with His rhythms, fall into step with Him, allow Him to open our eyes and hearts once again to the fullness and wonder of this Advent season, that we might then invite others to step into the light, hope and joy of Him with us.
To help with this, 24-7 Prayer has created another one of their fantastic video podcast series to take us on a journey through Advent. It is called The Selah Series: Volume II, for in Scripture Selah is to pause, to be still.
Join us in taking 60 seconds each weekday morning to be still in the midst of this Advent, dwelling on what it means that the arrival of Jesus is Good News. And Great Joy. For All People.
Beginning the 1st December, you can join in with the series by downloading on iTunes and on the 24-7 Prayer website. Alternatively, catch each episode each morning on 24-7 Prayer’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.