A Time of Rest

[Christ Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

As a kid, my church didn’t celebrate the season of Advent in any significant way; however, my parents came from a church tradition that did. So even though it didn’t happen at church, they made sure it was celebrated at home. Some of my earliest Christmas memories revolve around our weekly lighting of the Advent Wreath at our dining room table and opening the doors on the Advent Calendar each day.

For many of us, marking time throughout the season like this builds the excitement and anticipation toward Christmas day; however, what it also does is slow time down. We actually had to stop and think about these special moments, look at them together, talk about them, pause and notice them. In a season in which it seems hard to stop long enough to take a break and breathe, these intentional rituals created a clear moment to stop and rest before we took off again in a fury of church, school, family, musical, travel, sports, and birthday activities (yes, my birthday was 2 days ago!).

When we study the Christmas story closely, it’s important to notice all the ways it lines up in opposition to what our society tells us Christmas ought to be:  the small instead of the big, the quiet instead of the loud, the humble instead of the powerful, the outsiders instead of the insiders, the inward and secret instead of the outward and overt, and on and on. Another very important one of these countercultural shifts is holy rest instead of nonstop activity.

So here is the assignment for today’s reflection to help you stop and notice:

Gather your family around your dining room table tonight. Light a candle together (maybe help a younger kid learn to use matches to light it). Play some Christmas music softly. Pick one or two of the following questions and let each person take a turn answering and explaining their answers:

  • What is something we do as a family at Christmas that you really like?
  • Who is someone you look forward to spending time with around Christmas?
  • What is one thing we can do as a family to make Christmas more peaceful?
  • What is a feeling you hope to feel even after Christmas is over?
  • So far, how is our Christmas schedule making you feel about the season?
  • How do you think Christmas will be different when you are older?
  • When you are finished, pray together… maybe saying something like this:

“Lord, thank you for the people you have placed in my life. As we move toward Christmas together, please give us a deeper peace as we receive all the most important gifts you have for us. Help us to slow down and appreciate this season as we hear your voice speaking to our hearts. We stop to welcome you here. Amen.”

Pastor Tim