"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the strangest week of the year: the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a time when all of the days mush together like a plate of leftovers. The holiday season is ending and we are no longer being ushered along by the events marked on a crowded calendar. In fact, many of us are walking through these days in a blissful fog; nibbling on stale cookies and wearing pajama pants; and while we’ve enjoyed the excitement that this season brings, it feels pretty good to finally get a chance to slow down and rest.
When we consider what we just finished celebrating at Christmas: Jesus coming into the world to be with us, then it only makes sense that a week of rest should follow. Why? Because rest is found in the presence of the Lord.
There is a moment recounted in Mark 6:30-32, when the disciples had just returned from their mission trip and were eager to tell Jesus about all of the things that had been done in His name. There were many people around and so much excitement in the air, that the disciples could not even eat. So, Jesus, being fully aware of all of their needs, says to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
If we look closely at what Jesus says to the disciples in Mark 6:31, He is not simply encouraging them to just ‘go lay down’, He is telling them to purposefully get away and be alone with Him. This shows Jesus’s desire to be personally involved in our times of physical and spiritual rest. He is always reaching out for us to come away with Him to a quiet place, but how often do we accept this offer?
There are days when I am so tired in the morning that instead of getting up early for quiet time, I choose to stay in bed longer assuming that I’ll be better for it. But, on those days, when I attempt to rest on my own, I find myself less revived than I am on the days when I wake up early to spend time with the Lord. When I purposefully involve Jesus in my time of rest, I find myself refreshed in a way that allows me to become a more patient mom, a more understanding wife and a more productive member of His body.
Today, if life has you tired, try to remember that in His humanity, Jesus also experienced what it felt like to be physically and spiritually exhausted. Because of this, you can trust that He knows exactly what you need and that He is perfectly suited to help you through your times of weariness.
This week, as you bask in the residual glow of the Christmas season, accept the Lord’s open invitation to go away with Him to a quiet place and get some rest.
See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’“
Last year, my mom gave me a beautiful nativity set. It was the one I helped her put up in our home for many years, so I was very happy to have it for my house now. My children were so excited to help me get out all the pieces and set it up in our home and my toddler son’s favorite part was baby Jesus in the manger. He would carry it around with him and play with it. At night, he asked my husband and me if he could take baby Jesus to his room because he wanted to sleep with him.
After the Christmas season was over, we packed up the nativity set, including the baby Jesus figurine. Different times throughout this past year, my son would see the nativity box in our garage and ask if we could get it out so he could play with baby Jesus.
As I was thinking about my son’s love for the baby Jesus figurine in the nativity set, it reminded me of how thankful I am for God’s constant presence! What a blessing it is that we don’t have to wait each year to get out the nativity set for Jesus to be with us. In Matthew 1:23 it says, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’“ For the people in that day, this was a foreign concept to them. Only certain high priests were allowed into the “Holy of Holies” to be in God’s presence. However, because of Jesus’s birth all those years ago, we now have constant access to Him because of the salvation offered to us through His death and resurrection. He became our “great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14).
When we confess our sins and believe that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead three days later in total victory over our sin, we become children of God and then have the Holy Spirit in dwelling within us. We have the power and presence of God always with us. May we never take this for granted. Because of Jesus coming as a baby and ultimately shedding His blood for our sins, we can now, “Approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16a), as children of God. This Christmas season, may the celebration of Jesus’s birth be a reminder to us of His love and salvation, that allows us to always be in His presence, not just at Christmastime.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”
Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, Oh Come All Ye Faithful...all songs that cause our hearts to swell, to be still. Songs that allow us for a moment to forget about what is going on around us. Songs that cause us to actually sing along...sometimes louder and more off key than we realize (ha!). But have you ever wondered why this is?
Why do smiles sneak onto our faces and lyrics escape from our lips when we hear these Christmas songs? Could it be the memories we have attached to these songs...possibly? I would wager a guess that it has to do with something else...someone else. The reason that these songs stir in the very core of our being, our souls, is because the one who came to rescue our very souls is who these songs are all about.
Lately, I have been focused on the Christmas Carol, Oh Come All Ye Faithful. This song reminds me of the shepherds’ encounter with the angels in Luke 2. This is when the first invitation to come was given. Come and see the Savior of the world. Check out this incredible encounter found in Luke 2:8-20:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
You see, these particular shepherds actually had a really important job. Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, puts it this way:
“Somewhere deep in Jewish tradition (revealed in writings called the Mishnah), a belief had arisen that the Messiah would be revealed from the Migdal Eder ("the tower of the flock"). This tower stood close to Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem, and the sheep that pastured there were not the type used for ordinary purposes. The shepherds working there, in fact, took care of the temple-flocks, the sheep meant for sacrifice.
We can trust that God had a specific purpose for this shepherd audience, and the work they performed suggests the reason. These men who watched the sheep meant for the slaughter received a divine message about the ultimate Lamb who would take away the sins of the world through His death and resurrection. (Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book II, Chapter VI)).”
Is it any wonder that God would send the host of angels to tell them the good news first? It was as God was saying, “You have done a great job taking care of the sacrificial lambs. Now come and behold THE Sacrificial Lamb. The Savior of the world. The one who will redeem you. The one who will reconcile you back to the Father.
God’s call to come echoes even today. The Bible is filled with invitations for us to come:
“Oh come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Come and behold Him, born the king of angels
Oh come let us adore Him.”
Like the shepherds, won't you come? Come lay yourself before the throne of the one who came to love you, to rescue you. He is calling you, His beloved, to come and worship Him: to come into His presence and adore Him
“…the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
Several years ago, a friend taught me a children’s song. The tune is more like a chant than a song and it has been going through my mind for the last several weeks. There are only three lines, so you can repeat it as many times as you want. I wish we could sing it together - here it is:
J is for Jesus
O is for Others
Yi Yi Yi Yi is for you! You! YOU!!!
The song is very fun and simple, yet it has a deep truth. We will have JOY when JESUS is first and the highest priority in our lives, followed by OTHERS such as family, friends and possibly strangers and then, lastly, YOU, or self. Doesn't that seem so simple and clear? Jesus. Others. You (Self). Whenever I’m feeling discouraged or irritable, I go back to this little chant and always discover that I have put the needs of others OR my self interests first. Everything is out of order when Jesus is not first. OYJ or YOJ certainly does not produce J O Y!
Another song about joy is one of the most famous Christmas carols - Joy to the World. This popular song, written by Isaac Watts in 1719, was not written as a song celebrating the birth of our Savior but rather a poem based on Psalm 98. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (Psalm 98:4, NIV). The original theme of the poem was actually referring to when Jesus returns - Joy to the world, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King - the second coming of the Lord.
We may not always be in the middle of happy situations during Christmas but we may still choose JOY. As I am finishing this devotion, we are traveling to Georgia to participate in my dad’s celebration of life. He passed rather unexpectedly and this is a very hard time for our family. As I cry out to the Lord, I am holding on to the fact that “…the joy of the LORD is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV). This Christmas season, regardless of what we are facing-we can choose to remember why we celebrate. We celebrate Jesus, Savior of the world - He came as a baby, was a perfect man who bridged the gap between a holy God and sinful man, He is preparing a place for us in heaven and He is coming back again, and when He returns, even the rocks will sing! His return is the ultimate JOY TO THE WORLD!
Next time you sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King, remember joy comes when we put Jesus first and also that no matter what we are facing today, even if this holiday season is not filled with everything happy and easy, we can definitely rejoice in the fact that one day He is returning! He came for you and for me. He came because He loves you and me so very much.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Have you noticed the unique way people are anticipating Christmas this year? There is an “unwritten rule” saying you are not to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year all across the country outside Christmas decorations began showing up in early November. Companies that specialize in Christmas displays have seen a 15% to 20% increase in business.
So why is this happening? As Donna shared last week “2020 has been a crazy year”, as we seem to face one hardship after another. Many are simply worn out by the constant bombardment of the next crisis and people are turning to Christmas decorations to try to brighten their lives. Kristen Carpenter, chief psychologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said “There are health benefits to putting up lights early. Holiday lights and decorations can help bolster people’s moods and fend off seasonal depression.” But as followers of Christ, Christmas cheer does not come in decorating with lights; it comes from our hope in the “Light of the World.”
There are two kinds of hope. One is a desire for something good to happen in the future, and many are looking to a change of scenery to change their darkened thoughts about the future. And then there is Biblical hope, this is the confident expectation that God will fulfill all of His promise for our future, and this hope will cause our hearts to rejoice even when there is trouble all around.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a baby who fulfilled the promise God made in Genesis 3 when He promised that He would provide a Savior who would defeat Satan, and rescue us from sin and death. Isaiah prophesied of this hope saying, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT)
Yes, Christmas lights are beautiful, and they do give me a good feeling when I decorate my house with them, and yes I even decorated much earlier this year, but my hope that brings true joy lies elsewhere. It is found on the dark night when God himself lit up the sky with the most incredible Christmas display, as the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds declaring the birth of The Hope for all mankind. Then the sky was filled with a host of angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14 KJV)
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.