The following is a guest post by Nancy Guthrie. She is the editor of Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas.
This is the time of year it seems like every day there is another Christmas event. There are the school programs and parties, the office party, the Sunday School class party, the Christmas tea, and on and on. Perhaps you love it all. Or maybe you’d rather just stay home in front of the fire and not have to make conversation at one more get-together. No matter how you feel about holiday parties, you need to know that you have been invited to a very important celebration this Christmas that you don’t want to miss. This invitation is not meant to be a burden; it is meant to relieve your burden. Jesus himself has invited you, and here is how the invitation reads:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus is inviting you to come to him. It is easy to go to a party and have no meaningful interaction with the host or hostess. But this is not the kind of party Jesus has in mind. He wants to give you his full attention. He will not be in a rush. He wants to enjoy you. He wants you to enjoy him. This invitation is for more than just a brief visit. He wants you to make your home in him, to truly enter in to all he is and all he has for you.
All Who Labor and Are Heavy Laden
This invitation is addressed to all who are weary and carry heavy burdens. I have to admit that sometimes just thinking about Christmas makes me tired. It is not the buying and wrapping gifts that is so tiring to me, but the deciding what to give people. I was not given the decorator gene, so I find Christmas decorating frustrating because it just doesn’t turn out looking like other people’s houses do, and it is a whole lot of work to put up and then take down a few weeks later.
As you think about the coming Christmas season, does it make you a little bit tired? Are you weary with trying to figure out what to give all of the people on your list, weary of conflict in your family that makes the family get-togethers less than enjoyable? Are you carrying heaven burdens this Christmas season? The burden of having a generous spirit but a small budget? The burden of overcommitment or unrealistic expectations? The burden of a broken relationship? This invitation to those who are weary and carry heavy burdens is for you.
Jesus has a gift he wants to give to you when you come to him. He wants to give you rest. This is not just a gift for those who are too boring to have anything better to do or for those with a particular personality type. This gift is for you. When Jesus spoke these words he had in his mind all of the burdens that had been added to the law by Jewish religious leaders. Over time, so many picky rules had been added to God’s simple commandments, that the people were completely overwhelmed. There was no way they could live up to it.
Jesus wants to take away that burden and carry it for us. He takes the burden of all of our failed efforts to be good enough, and he gives to us in return his very own perfect goodness. Jesus knows just what you need most this Christmas. He knows what will satisfy you and fit you perfectly even though you may not have thought to put it on your list. He knows that what you need is real rest—not just for your credit card or for your body, or from your schedule, but for your soul.
How We Come
How do we come? How do we RSVP to Christ’s invitation? He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” At first the yoke Christ wants to give you may sound like a burden. But the yoke of Jesus is what makes all other burdens bearable. The yoke Jesus gives us connects us so closely to him so that he shares the load and bears our burdens. He wants to bear the weight of your burdens with his strong shoulders. Jesus wants to teach you what he is all about. How are you going to learn of him? By leaning in to him and experiencing him. By refusing to settle for the second-hand faith of your parents or second-hand insights from other people who read the Bible and then tell you what it says. You learn of him by listening to him. Jesus speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. Will you open up the Bible during this busy holiday season so you can learn of Him?
You may want to start with the Christmas story in Luke 2 and, as you work your way through it, keep asking questions and searching for answers: Why did God choose the shepherds for the angels to talk to? When they said “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased,” who are the people God is pleased with? In what way is this message “good news” to all people?
Eternal, Essential, Meaningful, Restful
Jesus is gentle and lowly of heart. He’s the kind of person you want to hang out with at the Christmas party rather than avoid. The kind of person you want to learn from. But here’s the rub. We simply can’t accept all of the other invitations for our time and attention during this season if we’re going to accept this invitation from Jesus. This Christmas, hear Jesus saying to you, “Come away from what is stressful but insignificant. Say ‘no’ to what is empty so you can enter in to what is eternal, essential, meaningful, restful. Come to me.”
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at conferences around the country and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband, David, are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding on to Hope, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, and the five-volume Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.