The holidays are here again!
I love this time of year – everything about it, in fact: Christmas carols, colder weather, decorations, great food, and connecting with my family and friends.
Given my excitement, a lot of planning and expectations go in to my holiday break. Decorating the house, putting lights up outside, buying egg nog, seeing a Christmas concert or two and, (if I can manage it) taking in a performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus are all part of the equation for me. Which is a lot to pack into four weeks! I'm sure your December is similar.
Over the last few weeks, however, God has been talking to me about HIS expectations over the holidays. There have been some specific topics I know he wants me to pray through and process with others, especially as I reflect back on 2014 and prayerfully consider what he has in store for 2015.
As I’ve thought about this “retreat” time where we generally we use up our last vacation days to take some well deserved rest and relaxation time, a question came to mind for us to consider:
What might God want to say or do with you during your time off?
Thankfully (as usual) the Gospels guides us. Jesus' life gives us a framework, showing us how he rested and retreated in the midst of his work. We see Jesus receiving at least three things from his Father as he spent time in retreat. Let's take a look at them and see if God may want to give us any of these things during this time of rest and retreat.
What gifts from God can we expect this holiday season?
Yes, God speaks! And revelation happens on retreat, if we slow down enough to listen for it. If we aren’t just stuffed with ham and desserts all Christmas, God probably has something to say. Every time Jesus got away he was intentional about being open to hearing his Father's voice giving him encouragement and guidance.
Are you frustrated or confused in certain areas of your life? Looking for clarity and direction? Create space this holiday season – God will most assuredly give you the clarity and insight you need. When we get quiet on retreat, God is always faithful to speak.
When we are working hard and making things happen day in and day out, it’s hard to remember the big picture. Yet this perspective is essential to ensure we are keeping first things first.
In the first chapter of Mark, we see Jesus working all day and into the night, healing the sick and casting out demons. If anyone deserved to sleep in the following day, it was Jesus! Yet, to keep the right perspective, he gets up early the next morning and spends time with his Father. He receives important insight and perspective during his time of prayer, namely, that he is called to move on to other villages instead of staying where he was.
Maybe what you need most this holiday season is perspective! Take some time, create some space – reorient yourself to the big picture priorities and areas of focus, which really matter!
Later on in Mark's Gospel, we see the crowds relentlessly pursuing Jesus and the disciples. It feels great to be desired, but Jesus knows that the best thing for them is a retreat away from the crowds to relax and rest.
Maybe, given a busy fall season, you are in need of time away from "the crowds."
Discern what healthy rest looks like for you, and go after the things that allow you to really reconnect and recharge with God, yourself and others. Be aware of the temptation to fall into indulgence or escapism. These things don't bring us the true, deep rest we really need.
You don’t have to read all those books you feel guilty about not finishing, or catch-up on all the hobbies you’ve been neglecting – just do whatever recharges you! God wants you healthy and whole, and investing in refreshment gets us there.
So relax! Come January you’ll be glad you did.