God prepared the way

“He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord” (Luke 1:17b, NLT).

Christmas Tree (1)

A lot of the fun of Christmas takes place before the day itself. The decorating, shopping, baking and anticipation of time with family and friends makes it a month long celebration. Of course, it’s best when time is also spent in quiet reflection of the real reason to celebrate. If presents and a big dinner are the grand finale of all the preparation, the month can end in a let down, especially if you’re the one stuck doing the clean-up.

God prepared the way for his Son to enter the world as one of us and as it was his plan from before time began, everything in history pointed and led up to that pivotal moment. He used prophecies, parallels, types, a sign and then right before Jesus’ birth, the birth of his cousin John, who was born to, as The Message says, soften the hearts of parents to children and kindle understanding in the skeptics. Jesus’ birth was the grand finale but not the end of the story. It was the beginning of the end of the Old Covenant, soon to give way to the commencement of the New Covenant of grace and forgiveness for all.

God’s special rest

“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NLT).

God gave the Sabbath to Israel as a sign to show them and the world they were his chosen people. I spent many years trying to keep the Sabbath. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it, but over time realized several things: I didn’t really know how, I couldn’t do it perfectly and something seemed to be missing. I did everything we were supposed to do—stop working, read the Bible, pray, go to church—but after all that, I was still relieved when it was over. In reality it was more work than rest.

It turns out something was missing. Just as with everything else in the Old Testament, the Sabbath pointed to Jesus. He is our special rest and our Sabbath, the sign of the New Covenant. He is the one in whom we daily rest—in his grace, mercy and love. Everyone who believes in him has their rest now and will continue in it forever. In his generosity, all of humanity is invited into his rest, included in his plan and can enjoy the peace and comfort of his blanket of mercy. Jesus is the true rest, with no worries and no rules, just him.