Many of us grow up with different images in our minds of the first Christmas. We might picture a starry night, a tumbledown stable, and a tiny infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. But beyond the starry hosts of heaven, we also encounter a multitude of promises Christ came to fulfill, including His promise to us of rest. So take heart if you’re feeling weary this holiday season or overwhelmed by life’s demands. Jesus came to save our souls and invite us into a deeply restful way of life. We can embrace this promise of rest and incorporate it into our advent celebrations.
When Jesus came to earth as a baby, He fulfilled a promise from seven decades before that the prophet Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Looking to the future, Isaiah saw a small glimpse of this promise-fulfilling Messiah. He expectantly looked forward to a Savior defined by wisdom, power, and peace. Yet we can imagine there were many gaps in his mind. He could not fully picture who this Savior would be. We, however, have the advantage of looking back on that holy night. We are afforded more perspective than the prophet.
Imagine that baby in a manger over 2,000 years ago. He was promise wrapped in flesh form — the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace swaddled in a manger. Yet, with the fuller picture we have from Scripture, we know Jesus arrived to fulfill many promises, including one of rest for our minds, bodies, and souls. In three decades, this baby would grow up and declare this promise in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Rest has always been an integral part of God’s plan. It began in the Garden of Eden when God rested from His creative work as an example for us to rest and delight in the work God gives. It continues through the practice of the Sabbath and culminates at the cross on calvary when Jesus declared, “It is finished.” As we think about baby Jesus this season, we can picture Him as our invitation to rest.
In Jesus’ arrival, sacrificial death, and resurrection, He overcame death and abolished our need to hurry through life or hustle away our days. Inspecting the words of Isaiah, we find a hint at a promise of rest in Isaiah 28:16. The prophet was again foretelling of the coming Messiah and said, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”
The “precious corner stone” Isaiah spoke of was Jesus, as later confirmed in Ephesians 2:20, “Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” And what does Isaiah say of those who believe in Jesus? They will not make haste. The Hebrew word used for “haste” can also be translated as “hurry.” Resting on Christ as our sure foundation, we no longer need to hurry around trying to get everything done and to keep up with society’s expectations. We can rest knowing that Jesus has completed the work of our salvation and gives us everything we need for our lives and work on earth. It all began that night in Bethlehem with an unassuming baby. He came as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace—and our promise of rest.