It’s been something every day for the last month. Holiday luncheons, Christmas programs, rehearsals and practices leading up to those programs, shopping for those in need and getting the gifts wrapped and to the drop off site by the deadline, staff dinner parties, work receptions, and everything else in between. The hustle and bustle of it all is part of what adds excitement to this season.
Doing so much more than you normally do can also wear you down and out. I succumbed to the exhaustion pretty early this year. By Dec. 3rd, I had chills, fever, congestion, and everything that goes with it. Since then, it has managed to stay with me in some form or another.
A couple of days ago it was late in the day and I was the only one in the building at work. It was quiet inside and dreary outside. I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t concentrate on anything because my eyelids were so heavy. I may or may not have put my head down on my desk and taken a five-minute nap.
I just wanted to sleep. I needed the rest but I kept putting it off and moving it to the bottom of the to-do list. I’m old enough to know that humans can’t do what they need to do without sleep. The truth is, I’m not a very good sleeper. I’m a light sleeper and will allow any little distraction to keep me awake. Often the distractions are in my head. If there’s something that I need to do, I lie in bed thinking about it until I can get up and do something about it.
Usually my lack of rest or sleep can in some way be tied to worry or fear. There’s worry that I won’t meet the deadline, fear that I might let someone down if I don’t show up or measure up, and it goes on and on. All throughout the Bible there are verses that encourage us not to fear, not to worry, and instead, to rest. I think I need to go back and re-read some of those verses.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121
My rest is found right there in verse 3: “He who keeps you will not slumber.” God never sleeps. He never sleeps so that I can. I need to quit trying to do what only God can do.
Many Christmas carols sound like lullabies. “Away In a Manger” and “Silent Night” are good examples. They encourage us to consider the birth of Jesus, to think about how he came to earth as an infant.
When an infant is born in the world today, establishing a sleeping routine is important. Parents are proud and relieved when their baby finally sleeps through the night, or at least several consecutive hours.
How was it for Mary and Joseph? The God who never sleeps was an infant in their arms. Mary and Joseph, as newborn parents do, surely wanted to eliminate distractions and encourage his slumber. Jesus, who had never slept before, could hear Mary and Joseph singing cradlesongs not long after his birth. Wouldn’t that be a little awkward? Awkward enough to cause me to lose some sleep.
Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of the story. His life on earth, His death and His resurrection have shown us that He became one of us so that we could become like Him. He traded never having to sleep with fighting for time to rest, at least temporarily. Because of that, we can know that He knows firsthand how hard it is to be us.
He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:7-10
So, He speaks with authority when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Our help does come from Him. He will keep our lives, for this time forth and forever more. That’s Christmas.
This was originally posted December 25, 2016 on The Press and Standard website