I’ve written several Christmas blog posts over the last few years. All have been geared to help us (women in particular) eliminate stress this time of year by letting go of the idea of a perfect Christmas. To read them click here (The Not Perfect Christmas and Hope for the Holidays)
This year, I’ve been thinking more about what I really want for Christmas:
These words jump off the page and fill us with longing. No matter how life is going for you right now, whether mostly good or horribly difficult….my guess is you still long for peace, rest, and joy. You get glimpses of each throughout each day yet we all go to bed weary longing for more.
Our experience of peace is directly connected to our ability to surrender and abide in the true vine, Jesus. John 14-17 is full of a mixture of Jesus talking to his disciples about peace but also worldly sorrow and struggle. Its interesting because struggle and peace don’t coexist in our minds very well. I wonder if we believe on some level that peace means the absence of trouble? Yet scripture doesn’t teach that at all. Here Jesus tells his disciples that they will definitely have trouble in the world. He had trouble and his biggest trouble was about to happen when he is arrested in John 18. To expect a trouble free life when our Savior’s life was full of trouble doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet we do….deep down we long for things to go well. Maybe that’s the part of us that knows the world is broken and longs for real peace. Our mistake is seeking it apart from Jesus or seeing the pain in this world as something God has inflicted upon us..
True rest, peace, and joy only come from Jesus.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Every other place and thing we expect to bring us true rest, peace, and joy doesn’t last. They are only a taste of what’s available when we abide in Jesus and a taste of what is to come when all things are made new.
To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must abide, remain, or dwell with Jesus.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15:4-5
This idea is a continual connectedness. Clearly Jesus is talking to believers in this passage because he says they “are already clean” (John 15:3). So it seems that we can be saved and chose not to abide in Christ. I think stress, busyness, pain, difficulty, struggle, and selfishness are all things that distract us and contribute to a lack of abiding. Abiding is a moment by moment choice to surrender to God and not a one time thing. Salvation (justification) is a one time thing.
To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must let God’s love flow in and out of us.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:9-17
There are two parts to this: accepting how much God loves you and loving others. For many, accepting how much God loves you is really hard. We all know how broken we are and how much we’ve done that we know violates God’s law. It’s the story written throughout scripture, starting in Genesis. God loving a people that can’t obey his law. There was no one that earned God’s love. In fact, God loved us all so much that he sent Jesus to fulfill the law on our behalf. It’s a pure, sacrificial love of a unlovable, unfaithful people. That’s the love God has for you, not based on what you’ve done or not done or what’s been done to you…but a love based on the gracious, mercy of the Giver. As I reflect on how amazing God’s love is, I’m in awe. It’s this love that we pour out to others…not because they’ve earned it but because we’ve been on the receiving end of undeserved love….now we get to give it…not in our own strength but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To experience real rest, peace, and joy we must expect hard times and find our anchor in Jesus.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’m not sure why we are always so surprised by stress and struggle but we are. Somewhere we have an expectation that life should be easier than it is. Jesus never promised an easy life…but he did promise to provide us with peace in our difficult life (Romans 8) and hope for the future (Revelation 21). As we walk into a very busy, stressful season of the year, one that is meant to point us to the amazing time where God gave us the gracious gift of Jesus, let us remember rest, peace, joy, and hope. Rest that you don’t have to do anything to earn your salvation…Jesus did it all for you. Celebrate the peace you have with God because of Jesus and pursue the internal peace that comes from abiding in Jesus. Allow joy to overflow because of the love God pours into you. And, claim hope because one day all things will be made new and we won’t have to any longer choose to abide with God because he will physically be with us.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:1-7
This Christmas, I want to give the greatest Giver of all my moment by moment surrender. Let’s not just give lip service to the idea of surrender but think about what it means to really lay down all to Jesus. The amazing thing is that as I give this gift to Jesus, he gives me what I really need….peace, rest, joy, and hope. Is it easy? No. Will I fail? Yes. Beloved, God knows our weaknesses. He doesn’t expect perfection. He is our perfection. He just wants a surrendered relationship with his beloved.