God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray;

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Am I the only one that finds this song ironic? It tells of rest and comfort and joy in a minor key and is sung either as a funeral dirge or as a race to the sales table (depending, of course, on who is leading the song). In fact, my favorite arrangements of this piece give the sensation of being swept off my feet and into . . . the great swell of traffic on the freeway . . . the harried atmosphere of a busy workday . . . the frenzied rush to finish things before due-dates . . . any moment but a restful moment.  I don’t dislike the song. I enjoy it (especially an older arrangement on a cassette tape with the Mantovani choir we had when I was a child). I simply find it ironic. Ironic like the whole Christmas season: in what other season of the year do we rush around desperately trying to make life simple, beautiful, and peaceful?

“Rest . . . Let nothing you dismay . . . Remember . . . Comfort and joy”

The Christmas season, like no other season in the year, reminds us of the important things in life: generosity, peace, love, and simplicity. We set out to make it a special time for ourselves and those around us, planning the perfect party, seeking just the right present, focusing on giving rather than on receiving. Yet, we find ourselves so tired. Somewhere in the midst of it all there is no rest–not physically, not emotionally, not spiritually. Somehow, in the midst of the focus on giving, there is little peace. And in a season that is supposed to be merry, many of us are left feeling disappinted somehow. By the end of the Christmas season, we are left wondering where in the world the “comfort and joy” could have been hiding. Did we miss them at the store? Were the malls sold out of them? Are these “tidings” no different than the sale ads we see on television and get in the mail? Maybe the comfort and joy are in limited quantities: only those who are first in line for the food at the Christmas party get them; only those willing to camp out on the steps of the stores the night before the sale can afford them.

But the God of the universe couldn’t possibly be that way, could He? Wouldn’t He have enough to go around to everyone–with more to spare? Enough rest for everyone? When He grew up, this baby proclaimed “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That’s a wide-open welcome. A sale that never ends. Maybe it’s like a batch of brownies: it doesn’t exactly fit the description of what we usully think of when we hear the word “cookie”; it doesn’t take a lot of work on our part; we simply bring the few ingredients we need to add and combine them with the mix (yes, I make brownies from mixes) then bake at the right temperature. Most of it’s been done for us. And around the Christmas season, I feel a little short on ingredients–time, for one! And so, maybe, having comfort and rest and joy is about bringing my few ingredients to the Chef and adding them to His mix: as simple as that! Could it really be that easy?

But are brownies allowed at this cookie party?  I can only really rest when I am comfortable and when I know that things are ok between me and those around me. And that is something we are short on–the knowledge that we are “ok,” not in the sense of mediocrity, but in the sense of acceptance. Are we allowed to come as we are? Somehow nothing in life seems to be good enough or done enough. And so we burn the midnight oil to accomplish the things that we feel ought to be done. And we have trouble being comfortable enough in God’s presence to rest.

Victor Hugo is quoted as saying this: “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Maybe I’m so busy trying to find my peace and joy and wrap it up and put it under the Christmas tree for others (and maybe a little for myself) that I won’t take the time to unwrap God’s gifts to me–the very things I am looking for. Maybe it’s time to realize that I don’t have to be perfect to be accpeted by God. I can get into my comfy clothes around him and rest. Maybe it’s time to do that this Christmas.

And have a brownie. It’s ok.

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