“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD…. In that day the root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of Him shall the nations inquire, and His resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1-3a, 10 ESV).
Amid all the turmoil and troubles of the world, there is very little rest to be found. Even as we draw closer to the day in which we celebrate our Savior’s birth, it seems that we hasten and bustle more than ever, reluctant to take our own advice and remember the real “Reason for the Season.”
Yet there is only one true imperative for the Christmas season and it is not that of accumulating all sorts of gifts for our loved ones, let alone those we’re not sure about. It is not about decorating our homes or places of work with attractive holiday ornaments or even about pulling together the “best Christmas pageant ever!” It isn’t even necessarily about gathering our families together for an annual Christmas get-together. While these things aren’t necessarily bad things in of themselves, they have so obscured the real priorities that we should have for the Christmas season – that of genuine celebration of the love of God in Christ Jesus – that even Christians are caught up in the stress, worry, and distractions of the world.
But the season of Christmas should be a time in which we reorient our lives and realign ourselves with our genuine mission and purpose in this world… that of knowing God and bringing glory to Him.
Let’s face it. When else during our busy year are we going to do it? Christmas has culturally become the one point during our twelve month cycle in which we collectively have any real impetus to rethink life. Will we do it in January? No, we’re too busy paying for Christmas, getting back into the routine of work after however much we got behind in December, and for breaking all our resolutions. Will we do it in the spring? There’s not much chance of that since we’re wrapping up our school year academics or are getting ready for spring lawn care. “What about the summer?” Are you kidding? With vacations and the doing of summer activities, we generally have no inclination to slow down and reconsider our lives from an eternal point of view. The fall offers little hope, too, as school gets revved up again along with all kinds of sporting events and activities making their demands of us.
The only season in which our society even pretends to suggest that just maybe we’re taking things too fast and might need to consider a new lease on life is the Christmas season. Ironic, isn’t it? Especially if your habit is to “run with the wolves” in frantic spending for Christmas gifts, ever running the risk of getting the wrong size, the wrong color, or a technological gadget that becomes obsolete before you get it out of the checkout line.
So where does one turn for the new beginning that Christmas offers us? How do we transition from merely acknowledging that we should get a new start in our living? We do as Isaiah 11:1-3 suggests and rally around the banner of Christ. The Reason for the Season is not a “what” but is instead a royal and wonderful “Who.” So let us don the rags of lowly shepherds, pick up our shepherd crooks, and gather too around the manger to worship the One named Jesus.
Let us our bring such gifts as we have, though they may not be gold, incense, or myrrh, and let us like Wise Men lay them before the One Who has been sent from the Eternal Father to us in our hour of need. Let us shrug off the shroud of sin and the rags of self-righteousness and instead embrace the life and hope that Jesus is to all who will receive Him as Lord.
When will we turn to Him if we do not do so now? Perhaps we’ll say things like, “I would like to do those things, but I just can’t right now. Maybe I will when things slow down for me a little bit.” Meanwhile, the clock ticks on and our schedules and the pressures of life refuse to relinquish their ruthless holds over our lives. We’ll mentally and perhaps even verbally agree that we’re off track and need to make some changes to how we live our lives but we’ll postpone making those changes and neglect the daily disciplines of choosing to live as Christ would have us live.
But why miss out on the “glorious place of rest” that Christ desires to be for you? Why fail in finding your true purpose in life by spending your time, energies, and talents on things that do not last forever and have no eternal value? Why live selfishly and not see for yourself how the love of God at work in and through your life can change in small but important ways the world that you can’t help but agree is “going to @#!*% “?
This is a moment in which we must each decide to forgo running the rat-race, and choose instead the path of the Good Shepherd. This is the hour in which we must say, “Enough is enough. I want something more than what I have right now; I want the abundant life that God has waiting for me.” This is the time to say no to not only the frantic hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, but the endless and pointless running-around that we’re caught up in when we’re not walking with Jesus.
The Savior is indeed a “glorious place of rest” for all who will follow Him in truth. Start making simpler choices for yourself for this holiday season. Connect with other Believers who agree with your earnest desire to truly know and experience the peace of Christ. Work with your family to spend less time serving yourselves and find projects that enable you to serve God by serving others. The world around you is a battered and beaten wreck – maybe even in your neck-of-the-woods. So let those around you know about your “place of rest” and let them see how your life raises up the Banner of Hope for all people that Jesus is. Let your attitude, your words, and your actions raise that standard and let His light be seen in you this Christmas.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.