Find True Rest
The holidays can prove especially exhausting for many of us. Even in a strange year when our calendars are slightly less full than they have been in years past, we might find that our good intentions lead to frantic busyness rather than reflection and contemplation on the coming of Jesus. What is supposed to be a time of good cheer and memory-making can leave us overwhelmed, worn down, and desperate for rest. I’ve gotten all the way through twenty-five days of Advent readings with my family and still felt like I barely thought about Jesus. Ticking all the boxes of our holiday traditions, I’ve accomplished a lot without keeping my heart fixed on the Savior I’m supposed to be celebrating.
Festive seasons like Christmas can be wonderfully distracting from the mundaneness of everyday life, but we can get so caught up in the distraction that we miss the main point. In all of our feasts and celebrations, we can and must keep our eyes on Christ. He isn’t only the “reason for the season.” He is the reason for our every breath. And we need him for every breath. When the holidays turn your calendar inside out, make sure you are taking time each day to find true rest in the Savior who came to give it.
For the Family
One of my favorite parts of the Advent season is counting down the days with my husband and sons. We pick a book each year for our Advent readings, and then spend the first twenty-five nights of December reading it together. We light our Advent candles before each reading, sing a Christmas hymn, pray together, and attempt to memorize some verses from Luke 1–2. A few years ago, we began making an Advent gratitude banner by using Christmas craft paper cut into triangles that we string across one of the doorways in our home. Each night of Advent, every family member has to write down one thing they’re thankful for that God has given or done for us. The first few nights are easy, but it gets much more difficult after that! We have to dig deep, sifting through our days and weeks and months, to practice gratitude for what God has done in sending Jesus to save us, sanctify us, and show us grace upon grace.
Our nightly Advent routine doesn’t take more than fifteen or twenty minutes. We still have a young child with a short attention span. Your Advent traditions don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful. If Jesus is your focus, then you have all you need to help your family fix their gaze on him each night. Read some Scripture, sing a song, pray. You don’t have to fill up a cart at the craft store to grow in your love for Christ this Advent. You simply need to carve out a few minutes to come together with your family to adore him.
I grew up doing Advent readings just like this with my parents and siblings, and they are some of my most treasured memories. I didn’t always pay attention back then, but as I’ve grown up and parented my own children, I’m deeply grateful that amidst church activities, school events, shopping, and Christmas parties, my parents were determined to simply turn our gazes to our Savior through Scripture, prayer, and song. All these years later, I can say with confidence that it was very effective in my life. If you are a parent with young children struggling through your chaotic Advent traditions, press on! Keep turning their little faces to Jesus even if you don’t think they’re paying attention. Showing them how to behold our Savior is never a wasted endeavor.
For the Individual
Whether or not you’re doing Advent readings with anyone else, the Advent season isn’t time to abandon your regular Bible reading. If anything, this is a wonderful time of year to lean more into our spiritual disciplines. The days fill up quickly with activity, and we can get to the end of the season feeling worn out and frazzled if we don’t make time to intentionally adore Christ. Jesus tells us that true rest is found only in him. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). He doesn’t say, “Come to me later, when you’re not so busy,” or “Wait until the holidays are over and life has calmed down before coming to me.” He tells the weary to come to him, take up his yoke, learn from him, and find rest. Opening your Bible and praying will provide the spiritual rest you need during a busy holiday season. Don’t wait until the holidays are over to come to him. Adore him today. God has equipped us to follow Christ faithfully no matter what season of life we’re living.
If you are not sure where to begin, consider getting a book of Advent readings that are paired with Scripture to read through on your own. Begin a month-long study of Jesus’s family tree in Matthew 1, reading all the backstories in the Old Testament of the people listed there. Or, ask some friends from church to read through the book of John with you this month and write down all the reasons Jesus came for us.
Following Jesus faithfully will always cost us something. You might have to get up earlier or cut out your evening of television to spend time adoring Christ this Advent season. But every moment spent adoring Christ will do immeasurably more for your soul than the other entertainments and festivities to which we might ordinarily give our spare time.
Faithful in Every Season
God has equipped us to follow Christ faithfully no matter what season of life we’re living. He has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through knowledge of him, who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
The call to follow Jesus, worship him, know him, and love him doesn’t lessen just because our calendars get full. In fact, those busy days might reveal we need more time with him than we thought. The good news is that God has given us everything we need to keep following Christ, no matter what day it is. In every season, whether celebratory or ordinary, we still need the truth of the gospel in the forefront of our minds. And because God sent Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and be raised again in victory, we have access to what God has provided. We can approach the Father boldly in prayer and meditate on his word that he has preserved for us, which is our very life (see Deut. 32:47). We won’t grow and flourish in faithfulness apart from the gifts he has given us, and thankfully, we don’t have to try.
When we take our habits of prayer and Bible reading into the holiday season, we’ll find true rest for our souls as we grow in adoration for the One who came to us and will come for us again.
This is a guest article by Glenna Marshall, author of Everyday Faithfulness: The Beauty of Ordinary Perseverance in a Demanding World. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.
Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise Is His Presence and Everyday Faithfulness, and writes regularly at GlennaMarshall.com on biblical literacy, suffering, and the faithfulness of God. She is a member of Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston, Missouri.