Christmas Rest for the Weary and Heavy Laden
Christmas is supposed to be “…the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” But for many of us, it’s the most painful.
It’s that time of year when budgets break; when you’re reminded of how dysfunctional your family is; when you miss the people you love who have either died or left you. Maybe you’re still single, and Christmas is a painful reminder that you are alone and can’t seem to find the love your heart longs for. Or perhaps you and your spouse can’t have children and seeing families together at Christmas only intensifies the ache of infertility. For some of you, this is your first Christmas as a divorcee. Figuring out how to shuffle your children back and forth between you and your ex on Christmas Day is a new pain for you. For others, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas because of your recent diagnosis. Or, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas with your mom because of her recent diagnosis. A lost job, a daughter who won’t even call on Christmas day, a son you haven’t talked to in three years, a father who can’t get sober, a sibling in rehab—Christmas reveals our deepest frustrations and fears, our most sincere sadness and suspicions, our brokenness and bitterness.
Christmas has a painful way of revealing why the first Christmas was so necessary.
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God*
Christmas exposes our desperation, but it also announces our Deliverer—the One who promises rest to the weary and heavy laden; the One who promises never to leave us nor forsake us. For those who feel lonely and lost, anxious and abandoned, tired and tense—for those who are guilt-ridden and grieving—Christmas is for you. Especially for you!
The Incarnation of Jesus serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our capacity to mess things up. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to confront our misery with his mercy, our confusion with his comfort, our guilt with his grace.
Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness. It is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. Christmas is a war fought by a Peaceful Prince whose battle plan is to defeat death by dying, fear by forgiving, and slavery by saving.
Christmas sets in motion the Divine pattern of God drawing near to us—not because we’ve done it right—but because we keep doing it wrong. Jesus came down to us because we are weak, not because we are strong.
Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation, we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same time, it shows us Jesus who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves (and others!), find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.
In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation. From the cries of a baby lying in a manger, God shouts, “I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here.”
Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born*
It is this crying baby who wipes away our tears as our Wonderful Counselor. It is this powerless child who conquers despair and dejection as our Mighty God. It is this needy newborn who is the source of everything we need and long for as our Everlasting Father. It is this helpless infant who restores okayness to our lives as our Prince of Peace.
As Everything, he became nothing, so that you—as nothing—could have everything.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
* “Welcome To Our World” from the album Deep Enough To Dream.