In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do: decorating, cooking, socializing, and shopping. However, it is important to pause and remember the priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forgetting to invite Jesus to His own party. In
Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose (Abingdon Press),
Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for helping families learn what it means to truly celebrate the Savior.
By Melissa Spoelstra
Passover: “For seven days you must present special gifts to the Lord. On the seventh day the people must again stop all their ordinary work to observe an official day for holy assembly.” ~ Leviticus 23:8
The Festival of Trumpets: “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. On the first day of the appointed month in early autumn, you are to observe a day of complete rest. It will be an official day for holy assembly, a day commemorated with loud blasts of a trumpet. You must do no ordinary work on that day. Instead, you are to present special gifts to the Lord.” ~ Leviticus 23:24-25
The Day of Atonement: “You must not do any work at all! This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation wherever you live. This will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and on that day you must deny yourselves. This day of rest will begin at sundown on the ninth day of the month and extend until sundown on the tenth day.” ~ Leviticus 23:31-32
The Festival of Shelters: “For seven days you must present special gifts to the Lord. The eighth day is another holy day on which you present your special gifts to the Lord. This will be a solemn occasion, and no ordinary work may be done that day.” ~ Leviticus 23:36
Do these four letters describe your month of December? It certainly isn’t the first word that comes to my mind. Yet as we look at biblical celebrations like Passover, the Festival of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Shelters, we find the concept of Sabbath to be an important one. God was very specific in the verses we read from Leviticus today to instruct the people to include rest in their celebrations. The rest included:
- Stopping all ordinary work
- Gathering for holy assembly
- Complete rest
- Presenting the Lord with special gifts
- Denying self
- Solemn occasion
God created us. He knows we need to stop and remember. We must break from ordinary routines so that we can commune with Him in celebration and commemoration. These Israelite holidays were meant to help the people remember what the Lord had done for them:
- He delivered them from Egypt.
- He atoned for their sin.
- He led them safely through the wilderness.
The sacred celebrations were a time to stop and remember. At Christmas we do a similar thing. We incorporate new rituals, connect with people, and stop our ordinary routines to think about what the Lord has done. He sent His son to earth.
John 3:16 reminds us why He did this. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” That is why we celebrate. However, we can’t just stop ordinary work and fill it with new kinds of busyness. Instead we are to plan for times of complete rest.
I’m not good at this. I can write about it but I struggle to do it. Resting sometimes makes me feel guilty and unproductive. Our culture doesn’t value rest. It values leisure, but not necessarily rest. There is a difference. The biblical definition of rest is not escaping. It is not endless hours of staring at a screen or being entertained. Biblical rest brings us closer to the Lord and nourishes our soul.
We are wired up so differently that some things that are restful for me might not be restful for you. So we must prayerfully pursue rest. One question we can ask is this: “Does this restful encounter bring me closer to God?” When my body is refreshed with sleep, I find myself less irritated. Fatigue can leave me vulnerable to attacks of the enemy. So in a way, physical rest can bring me closer to God.
Other activities that are restful for me include:
- Taking a walk.
- Seeing God’s creation/nature.
- Reading a good book or novel.
- Reading the Bible.
- Working on a puzzle.
- Writing in my journal.
- Just lying on my couch thinking.
- Having a conversation with someone I love.
My husband would not find several of the things on my list restful. Instead he might prefer to play a sports game, listen to music, or interact with a group of people. Introverts and extroverts might find different types of things restful. In the past year I have tried to be more intentional about rest. I’ve put it in my schedule and dedicated some days to putting away all electronic devices (including my phone) to rest from “notifications.” I found myself still trying to be productive in my rest. I would read a commentary I know I will need for a future book. I’d take a walk to get in some exercise. Someone recently shared with me that true rest produces nothing.
For those who struggle with worshipping at the altar of productivity, that’s a tough one. How about you? We are not under the Old Testament law and most of us don’t observe the Jewish festivals. However, we can learn from the example of biblical celebration that rest is an important aspect of our faith. We don’t want to rush through Christmas and check off our lists and just get it all done. We want to connect with God as we remember His love and relish the gift of His Son.
God, thank You for the gift of rest. Help me to accept the gift You’ve given me. Show me how I can incorporate restful times to draw nearer to You in my holiday routines. I want to discern the most important way to spend my time. Help me to value rest the way You do. I long to understand what it means to experience complete rest in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Excerpt taken from Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Spoelstra. Published by Abingdon Press.
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. Her latest book release is Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose. Learn more at melissaspoelstra.com.