Advent Rest

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28

I love Advent because of passages like these. It’s a season that offers the perfect antidote to the overwhelming busyness of our secular, consumerist culture. Just like Jews have a religious “excuse” to take a break from their  lives and rest on the Sabbath, we have the excuse of passages like these to step away from the pressures and demands of holiday preparations. (As Christians, we are called to that weekly Sabbath rest too, but that’s for another reflection.)

I find that I “out myself” as Catholic during Advent more than any other time of the year. It’s a reason I can give for saying no to some party invitations, why our family only buys a couple of gifts for the kids, and why we don’t even try to keep up with the Joneses in decorating our house and yard. Overdoing it in any of those categories feels burdensome and is a yoke I don’t think Jesus wants anyone to have to carry.  So I can blame it on my religion. “Thank you for the invitation, but we’re trying not to over-commit ourselves during Advent.” “Buying so many presents is stressful, not to mention expensive, and our church is asking us to re-evaluate how much we buy and why this season.” “I wish our house were as well-decorated as those, but we’ve decided to focus on other things instead this Advent.”

If we feel out-of-sync with the rest of the world around us during this time of year, or if we feel pressured to conform in ways that aren’t life-giving for us or our families, one remedy is to make time each day to “come to Jesus.” He will put everything in perspective again, reminding us we don’t have to carry the heavy yoke of a consumerist season that swirls at an unsustainable pace. He wants to give us rest instead of a guilt trip for not buying enough. He wants us to know gentleness instead of the pressures of society, family, and friends.

I know which yoke I prefer, but I also know that I need to stay connected to Jesus to remember I prefer his. Luckily, Advent surfaces readings like these to remind me to keep coming back to him.

For action: Are you feeling weary or burdened by any secular pressure in the lead-up to Christmas? Ask Jesus for guidance and make a commitment to exchange that yoke for Jesus’ this year, even if some people may not understand your decision.