Take a deep breath
and hear these words of Jesus:
Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, . . . and you will find rest for your souls.
Most of us are here this evening because we are carrying heavy burdens.
Burdens of grief, depression, or loneliness.
Burdens which feel heavier in these weeks because it feels like everyone else is celebrating.
The pressure to be merry and bright seems to weigh us down even more.
Into these hard places Jesus offers rest.
Does that sound as good to you as it sounds to me.
Jesus invites us to sink deeply into his love –
the love that nothing we do or feel can take from us –
and let our souls rest
One of my favorite passages in Isaiah says,
Thus says the Lord your God,
In rest and returning shall be your salvation,
in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
I love those words.
A reminder to us in our busiest season,
to return our attention to God and rest in God’s love.
The passage goes on to say,
But you refused and said, no, we will flee upon our horses
Isn’t that so often the way of it?
God invites us to return, to seek peace and rest in God –
but we are busy with other things.
We are busy meeting people’s expectations,
or trying to live up to our own ideals of how we SHOULD behave and feel.
Or we run away because we know that, in returning to God,
we may come face to face with our deepest selves –
and we are not sure we are ready for that encounter.
So in these coming days, as the celebrations of Christmas reach their fevered pitch,
I invite you to take some time to rest.
Maybe that means letting ourselves have a good cry.
Maybe that means letting ourselves rage at the unfairness of it all –
expressing our pent up anger to God or to a trusted friend.
Maybe that means letting going of something we SHOULD do,
and just going for a walk, or taking a nap, instead.
Maybe it means letting to of a tradition or expectation that is just too painful this year –
knowing we can always pick it up again another time.
Hear the words:
nothing in all creation – not grief, not anger, not mistakes we have made, not addiction or loneliness or depression – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
There is no promise that bad things won’t happen. We know that.
God’s love doesn’t shield us from the normal griefs of human life –
or even from the unfair, unthinkable things that sometimes happen.
But God promises to be with us in our grief, anger and fear.
God promised that there is nothing so bad that it separates us from God –
even when we don’t feel God’s presence with us.
In John’s account of Christmas, there are no angels and shepherds,
no stable and wise men from afar.
Instead, John simply tells us that the Word of God –
God’s eternal wisdom,
the spark of life through which all creation came into being –
God’s own self became human and dwelt among us.
Christmas time is the reminder that our God is Emmanuel – God with us.
God with us then, living a human life in Galilee,
and God with us now, filling us with comfort and peace.
The light shines in the darkness.
The light is Christ’s love.
The light is the goodness of creation.
The light is the Word of God, the very spark of life.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
When it gets too hard, light a candle and remember –
the light of God’s love shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.
Rest in that promise.
Rest in that light.
And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding,
fill you in this season and always.