In 1945 Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne penned one of my all-time favorite Holiday tunes, “Let It Snow.”
Growing up in Boston, this song meant more to me than any other tune we sung during the winter. When heavy snow fell, schools would close. All of my friends and I would stay in and play. To me, snow brought rest! This song reminds me of those much desired days off. Whenever there was a chance of snow, I would hum that tune because I knew what would come of it: fun, comfort, and rest.
Unfortunately, we are far from the joys of winter in South Florida. I know some people move here to escape the cold, but personally, I miss it. I miss the sense of the arrival of winter, the sense that we would now prepare to slow down, how we would stock up on food and supplies, you name it! Winter for me was a time of anticipation.. and anticipation to rest.
As we approach the Christmas season, there is a tendency in American culture to move at a million miles a minute. Between shopping and hosting out-of-town guests, it’s too easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Whether you’re a pastor or worship leader or a stay at home or work from home parent, you may be trying to not lose your mind while making sure everything is done before December 25th. I propose that this Christmas season we rest in Christ, care for our souls, and anticipate his coming when he will one day make all things new.
How do we change the pace?
First, pray. Now, you might be thinking, “Gee, thanks Adam! What a revolutionary idea for a Christian! You’re just another guy who’s telling me to ‘pray on it.’” I promise this is not my intention. Prayer is a practice I have struggled with for a long time. What’s been helpful to me is to understand the fact that God desires to give us good gifts, even the gift of his rest.
In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus invites us into this space of “asking,” a familiar posture in this season in which we ask or make lists for what we want for Christmas. As much as I’d love for Jesus to gift me with a grill for Christmas, he has something much better to offer: Himself. In this passage of scripture, the tendency for us is to look at “asking” from the lens of consistency. The logic goes, if I ask hard enough, seek frequently and knock unceasingly, Jesus will finally hear me. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Jesus qualifies his call by saying the one who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds. Jesus is saying, “I’m here, I’m present, I’m just on the other side of your knocking hand,” and to quote Dr. Frasier Crane from the ‘90s sitcom, “I’m listening.” Jesus wants to fill you in this season with His joy, peace and rest. All we have to do is ask.
Second, we make the choice to rest and find practical ways to do it.This looks different for everyone. For me, it involves clearing my schedule and spending more nights at home with my family than I spend out at an event or socializing. In order to rest, we have to slow down, and most likely turn down a few invitations so that we can be present for the most important moments. This will take discipline, but it’s so rewarding!
Speaking to folks in ministry leadership for a moment, think of ways you can scale back production. Though the holidays are a prime time for evangelism, we should be careful not to overwork ourselves and our people for a great show. Though the culture is moving at breakneck speed, the last thing we should do is move at the same pace. The church can and should be a place of refuge and rest, especially around Christmas. Let’s help our congregations in the midst of this season to anticipate the arrival of our savior who didn’t come in guns blazing, but came and left as a humble king.
Let’s point people to Christ, who is our sabbath rest.
Adam Pizarro serves as the Worship Director at Riverside Church in North Lauderdale.