Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
This week we’re listening to “O Holy Night” and to a familiar passage from Matthew 11. The title of our current sermon series, The Weary World Rejoices, is a line from the hymn. One of the gifts of our times is the ease with which we can access all kinds of versions of this hymn; so find a favorite version for this year and give a long, loving listen to all the verses!
In the Matthew passage, we hear Jesus’ humble and gentle heart towards all who are weak, weary, and burdened: “Come to me!” Come! is a great word for these in-between weeks that stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas. In some church traditions, these are the weeks of Advent, a word that means coming. We are preparing to celebrate the One who came, who comes to us now, and who has promised to come again to set all things right, to make all things new. And we are invited to come ourselves. Come again to this familiar story. We don’t need to pretend that we don’t “know the story” already, but to realize anew there is more to the story than we have known or understood.
Come! Take your place again alongside the people of God, who longed and hoped for God’s deliverance and salvation, who clung to promises and prophecies, who waited in faith for what they had not yet seen or received. Come and remember what it is like to wait, to hope, to wonder, to long for what has been promised to come to pass. Come alongside those who find themselves waiting today. Come, not as a spectator but as a participant, as one who is being included and enfolded in this one great, good, true and beautiful Story, the only Story there ever has been or will be.
Come! Listen again, listen afresh. This story is both comforting and troubling, both peaceful and disorienting, familiar and yet still so very strange. Come and wonder, come and worship, come and pay attention: there is more going on here than we know. There is more going on in our lives right now than we know. Come and ask: what is God birthing into me in this season?
Come to him who is this Story’s source and heart and hero. Come to him who came to us, who came for us, who came as us. Come to him who came to us on a holy night, who came for us on a cross of wood, who came to us from an emptied grave, who comes to and for us now, today, by his Spirit.
Come: find your place in the familiar story again this year. Your place this year will be different than last year, than ten years ago. There is so much room in this generous, spacious Story: room for us, for you, for those we love and for those we don’t yet love. Room for us, for you, in all the dark nights as well as the holy ones, in the soul-sapping weariness as well as in times of strength, in the anxious restlessness as well as in the times of faithful confidence. Room enough and to spare for our weary, burdened, broken world.
Because at the center of the story, at the center of everything, is he who came, who comes, and who will come again. There is room here for weary, burdened, confused, stumbling, wandering you, but it is not a cold, empty impersonal “waiting room”—there is here One who is for us, who is with us, and that more deeply than we could ever imagine or express.
What is a place of weariness in your life? How could the yoke of Jesus bring rest to your soul? What steps could you take to take his yoke upon you?