There was a period in my life when I wasn’t overly enamoured with Christmas. In fact if I am being completely honest, it was a time of the year that often left me stressed, overwhelmed and nowhere near as joyful as I felt I ought to have been. The main reason for feeling the way I did was because I had allowed what was supposed to be a joyful, gratitude filled season become one that was overshadowed by crazy busyness, endless advertising geared at persuading me to add more unnecessary material possessions to an already full closet; and a society that was increasingly become more distant and hardened against the Divine. Add to this the seemingly endless school concerts (so glad my kids are grown up!), work parties and often unsuccessful attempts to buy the right present for relatives, teachers and everyone else, it was no surprise I was so tempted to hibernate during November and December.
Then a few years ago, I heard a gentle whisper from Holy Spirit, ‘Come away with me.’ I knew at once it was an invitation to discover a better way to walk through what had become something of a chore for me. But more than that, I felt there was a gentle but firm ‘or else’ at the end of the invitation. ‘Or else what?’ you might ask. Holy Spirit is after all not in the habit of giving ultimatums or using fear to galvanise us into action. No, His modus operandi is to woo us, gently but firmly; to show us what we might be missing, and to give us a picture of what life could look like on the other side of our obedience.
The ‘or else’ I heard was not a threat. It was simply a reminder that a lot was at stake if I didn’t accept the invitation. And like any good financial adviser, doctor or mentor would do, He wanted me to have all the information I needed in order to make an informed choice. If I didn’t ‘come away with God’, I was in danger of not making the most of what is arguably the most important calendar event in Christendom – the advent and subsequent birth of our Saviour.
I knew there were other people like me who needed to hear this invitation. Others like me who needed an oasis in the middle of modern day busyness. A place where we could rest in God’s presence and allow Him to envelop us in His love. A place where He could impart afresh His love for the not-yet Christians in our spheres. A place where He could fill us with His grace and strength so that we could be a shining light in a very dark world.
So I organised a half-day retreat and invited others to join me. It was a huge success not because large numbers came, but because from that day onwards, I no longer have the overwhelming sense of heaviness that I used to have as Christmas approached. Instead I look forward to a time of celebrating the birth of a Saviour who provided a complete redemption for us all. I enjoy the times spent interacting with friends, family and work colleagues. And I look for opportunities to ‘speak life’ and share the hope that I have in Jesus with people who don’t yet know Him.
In the last few weeks, I have heard this gentle whisper again, ‘Come away with me.’ While you may not identify with the way I used to feel about Christmas, the invitation is still issued to you today. Coming away with him could include:
- Booking a retreat
- Spending more time praying and seeking him
- Refusing to be caught up by the busyness of the season and instead giving more time to just sitting with Jesus
- Including silent or soaking prayer into your daily prayer routine
- Organising a prayer morning or evening with friends where you worship together, share scriptures or have a time of quiet contemplation
- A walk in the park (weather permitting!) taking time to appreciate God’s creation and talk to Him.
Whatever coming away with him means for you, it is an invitation you will do well to accept.
‘Come away with me this Christmas season’, says God, ‘and allow me to do a fresh work in you’.