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The Rest of God's Finished Work

The holiday season is known for its busyness. And don’t we secretly delight in it? The parties, performances, carol singing, shopping, decorating, cooking and baking… Without all of this, how would we feel about Christmas? A few years ago, my children gone from home, the decorating and shopping done, baking ignored (on purpose), I had TIME on my hands. At first I delighted in it. I sat by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree in the early morning hours with my coffee cup in hand, but as the days went on I felt restless and a little bored. (Please don’t delete this now in disgust.) Should I have volunteered to do something – should I do more?

I had time, but no real rest – at least not the kind of rest that God invites us into – the Sabbath rest of God’s finished work.

When God finished creating the world (and us), he rested. Perhaps we think that he rested because he was worn out from all of that creative work. I doubt it. His resting was a position of completeness. It was all good – and very good.

Then, because we doubted and disobeyed and rebelled, we had to leave his Rest and we entered into a world that we created – one of striving and painful labor and death.

But God is merciful. He saw the exhausted and fretful labor of His children in Egypt, so he entrusted his faithful servant, Moses, to lead them away from their slavery. He promised them rest. Yet, once again they doubted and disobeyed and rebelled. Once again they are not able to enter His Rest. (Hebrews 3:16-19)

But a promise has remained, and that promise is a Savior who frees us from slavery and death.  Entering into God’s rest is entering into the finished work of the cross. This Rest has been prepared for us since the creation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3)

The price of entrance is:

  • faith, in place of doubt
  • obedience, in place of disobedience
  • acceptance, in place of rebellion

“For only we who believe can enter his rest.” Hebrews 4:3

God has rested from His labor of creation and of salvation and he invites us to rest in his finished work. 

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Sabbath rest means that we do not have to strive. Striving is the action of a world that demands and rewards performance and achievement. We strive for identity. We strive for position, power, and authority – to be recognized – to be affirmed – even to be loved.

Rest means that we accept that all that Christ has accomplished on our behalf is all that we need – and we rest in it.

“It is finished!”

In Light of This

I could leave this here at this point, and it would be enough, I think. But I would like to leave you with more to consider during this season of Advent. Because this is also the season of consumerism and consumption.

In a previous post I shared this quote from Walter Brueggemann on the topic of Sabbath rest:

“The practice of Sabbath rest breaks the cycle of production and consumption that leaves us restless and dissatisfied. 

The practice of rest involves releasing control of our lives – at least for one day – to God.

We learn to trust his provision. We find his goodness to be satisfying enough for us.”

Perhaps we can find a way to pull away from the seductive busy glitter of the season, and enter those times of resting in the presence of God. God is a rich storehouse of blessing and power and strength. He brings peace and comfort to his children. This is the real message of Christmas. Let’s make room in our hearts for this – and then we will truly be welcoming the Christ child in.