Shoulders

Rest, even in our quarantined world, can be hard to come by.

Just recently, I have surfaced on the other side of coronavirus. My symptoms were mild compared to most, though I found myself tired constantly. My nature is to push through, and so after a week of not allowing myself to rest because I wasn’t “that sick”, it all caught up to me. Then, I had to rest because my body wouldn’t let me function otherwise.

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.

– Isaiah 9:6

This month, Isaiah 9:6 has been on my mind and heart. Usually, the beautiful names of Jesus are the focus of this verse — Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Oh, what a Savior we have!

Yet, what I’ve been contemplating since the early start of the Christmas season this year is that the government will rest on His shoulders.

At this juncture in history, and the chronicles of our nation, words like steady, secure, peaceful and gracious aren’t used to describe our ongoing circumstances. So many are hurting and struggling. Yet, Isaiah 9:6 declares that the government rests on His shoulders. I think we’ve forgotten that. Christmas is about trusting that Jesus came to shoulder the mess and sinfulness of our world.

I will admit that too often I allow the stressors and burdens of life and of this world to rest on my own shoulders. I want to handle it, even when I can’t. I want to make things happen, when it’s not up to me. I hold onto and bear what I wasn’t meant to carry.

Jesus came into this world to set us free and give our weary souls the rest we may not have even realized we needed.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

– Matthew 11:28

I can know this verse is true because of what Jesus carried on His shoulders as He climbed Golgotha and was raised up on the cross. He took on my sin, my shame, my burdens, my guilt. All of it rested on Him. He was the only One who could bear it. He gave His life so I could be free of it, and could finally experience the blessing of living in full trust and dependence through faith.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

This Christmas, please know that Jesus didn’t create you or me to carry all that we’ve placed on our shoulders. He is there, right now, ready to join us, and shoulder the weight of the burdens we haven’t even spoken out loud to anyone. All that He asks is for us to come to His side, and let Him do the heavy lifting. Give Him your heart, and follow His steps.

There, beside the Savior of the World, we will find rest.

Why We Need Christmas

The day after Thanksgiving, our family got out our Christmas decorations, put up the tree, hung our stockings, and even set up lights in front of our house. It’s officially the Christmas season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time!

We were certainly not the first to dig out our Christmas tubs and boxes. This year, people were stringing lights and trimming their trees earlier than ever. 2020 has been a lump of coal, to say it politely, and across the board people have been long anticipating the holiday season. 

This yearning is not just for children excited to open presents on Christmas morning. It’s us, as adults. We need Christmas this year. 

Why is there more attention, focus and enthusiasm for Christmas than usual? Why does it seem we desperately need Christmas to come, the sooner the better?

Collectively, for almost all of us, this year has, well, been a year. It’s a year we’d like to escape, to sucker punch and kick to the curb. It’s been hard, and for some devastating. People have lost opportunities, lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost their sanity in quarantine, lost safety, lost elections, lost peace, lost joy. We’ve lost. With no end in sight, and no light at the end of the tunnel, we feel lost.

And so when the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree glow, and outdoor displays shine bright in the dark (at 5 p.m. – thanks to time change), we feel a flicker of hope that all is not lost.

Christmas is about remembering what was and believing in what could be again. 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is putting up our Christmas tree. My husband puts the tree together, and then I string the lights and garland. Next, we decorate the tree with ribbons carefully saved from our holiday wedding. Finally, the kids hang all of our ornaments, spanning decades of memories. It’s certainly not a professional job, and not one you’d ever see in a store display, but it’s ours. 

Our Christmas tree holds so many years of special moments and stories, smiles and laughter. It reminds us of the joy and blessings God has given us.

For instance, my favorite ornament on our tree is a construction paper stocking, stitched with yarn by small fingers, and half of the sequins are now missing. On the back is my son’s name, proudly written by a little boy after working on this special project together. It’s trash to most, but one I will always keep and prominently display.

My favorite ornament

There are so many ornaments lovingly made in school classrooms by my children (and their thoughtful teachers), that capture moments and precious faces I don’t want to forget.

Precious faces and memories on the tree

Both my husband and I have ornaments commemorating our first Christmases from our parents, and others from our childhood. And we have special ornaments that we’ve picked out together for our tree.

Each year, when we have the opportunity, my husband and I pick out a special Nativity Christmas ornament.

Our Christmas tree reminds us what’s most important. It’s the One who has shaped our Christmas memories and who holds all our future Christmases.

People long for Christmas, because deep down, even if they don’t understand it, they ache for a Savior. They want someone to save the day – to change what the world has become.

We need peace in the midst of this pandemic. We need joy instead of the constant jockeying for position. We need faith to come against fear and fighting. We need hope to heal the hurting. 

We need Christmas. We need Christ.

Jesus is peace. Jesus is joy. Jesus is the reason for our faith, and the source of our hope.

Christmas not only reminds us of what’s most important, it gives us a glimpse of what could be and should be when we seek the Savior of the World. Only Jesus can restore what we’ve lost. 

He was the One who left the perfection of Heaven to step into our mess. He lived a life without corruption, selfishness and sin. And, because we couldn’t do it on our own, He gave His life to save ours. He gave us hope and life, and that resurrection is available to us, even today.

So, bring on the Christmas carols, mugs of hot chocolate, nativity scenes and candles flickering in the windows. Light up those obnoxious Christmas displays and cover couches with Christmas pillows and blankets. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and snuggle together with only the glow of the Christmas tree lights in the room. Christmas is here – and we have reason to celebrate! 

The Light of the World has come! Look for Him this Christmas.