Oh! Tidings of comfort and joy.
I’ve noticed in different seasons of my life that I often hear a song or musical phrase on repeat in my mind. Sometimes these phrases bubble out audibly like a chant. Sometimes music quietly turns over and over in my thoughts like a meditation. These words and phrases soothe me like a balm, they are my companions on lonely roads, they stir inspiration and creativity like an oasis breeze in the desert and trumpet exultation for triumph and celebration.
In this Advent season, the words “God rest ye merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day,” are echoing in my heart. With these lyrics resounding again and again in my mind, the word “rest” keeps ringing louder and clearer.
Rest. Rest. Rest. The call to rest beckons even as I add more tasks and holiday events to my calendar. And I begin to consider one of the many paradoxes that is the Christmas story.
Here we are approaching winter. After many months of new life, blossoming growth, and bountiful harvest, the trees have dropped their leaves. Hibernating animals are tucked into dens. Fallow fields lie dormant. We move toward shorter and darker days, but the earth is not afraid. All of nature knows it is simply time to rest.
It is in this resting darkness that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Just as we prepare to lay aside our work, God’s great act of love has only just begun. Jesus was born into the darkness so he could experience himself as the light. Even though we in our humanness shrink from darkness and the mysteries of death, Jesus came as a baby to conquer death once and for all. He was born to die, so that in dying we can be set free from our fears. We plan, and fret, and busy ourselves as a distraction from worry. But Jesus, who took his first breathe in the still darkness of night, says “Come to me, all of you that are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
This is my invitation to you.
Be joyful! Celebrate! Find comfort in Christmas traditions and connection to loved ones. Because God came as Love in the form of a tiny, vulnerable infant so that he could know us. But rest in the darkness knowing you have nothing to fear. In the dark, Emmanuel arrived. God is with us always to the end of the age.