“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5 NIV).

I could hear her weariness, though her message was merely a short text–I tossed and turned all night. I’m so stressed about finding a home and getting settled. I want to put up a tree and buy gifts for the kids, but I’m afraid I’m failing miserably.

My dear friend and her three children were temporarily living in another’s home. As the time she’d anticipated moving drew nearer, she was anxious, and I sensed anxiety rising up within me as well.

Lord, how do I encourage her?

And right then, I heard God’s quiet voice–

What does Psalm 62 say?

I knew. Having committed portions of this particular passage to memory, the words were hidden in my heart, so I answered—Find rest in You alone, God. Our hope—yes, our expectation—should only come from You.

The Amplified and King James versions both use expectation, not just hope, in their exhortation, and with regard to the holiday hype—the world’s voice particularly loud, vying for attention—this reminder from the Lord seemed a simple grace.

As I pondered this passage, applying it particularly to my friend’s situation—her stress over unmet expectations causing her unrest—I discovered several timely truths.

First, we can unwrap rest from stress. Look at both words. Can you see it? Takes a little rearranging perhaps—reevaluating the use of one’s time, one’s resources. Ask the Lord to reveal His expectations for the Christmas season, enabling us to prioritize according to His best, reordering our plans so they align with His will, not necessarily the ways of the world—the urges and temptations to do more, buy more, be more.

After all, there’s no rest apart from God’s best.

Second, to unwrap rest in the season’s stress, some things may need to be omitted. Literally speaking, letters don’t only need to be rearranged but several must be dropped to reveal the word rest in stress. Ask the Lord what needs to be relinquished so that better rest becomes a reality.

Though perhaps contrary to one’s tradition, this might mean omitting plans to travel, choosing instead to stay home rather than accruing added expenses. It may mean omitting elaborate, pricey presents from the gift list or resisting the expectation to buy costly decorations and groceries. Ask the Lord what He would omit that His presence might be experienced best.

After all, the sweetest rest is while snuggled at His breast.

Finally, the truth that rearranged plans and diminished expectations lead to rest, even in the midst of life’s stress, is nothing new, and it’s not merely for the month of December.

Take, for example, the Holy Family all those years ago. Nothing about Jesus’s conception within the womb of an unwed girl met Mary’s expectations. Joseph’s or others’ either.

The couple’s plans in the little town of Bethlehem changed unexpectedly when Jesus pressed upon His young mother. Labor told her it was time, creating panic, no doubt, in the heart of a protective husband and father.

A smelly barn wasn’t likely what these new parents expected as the birthplace of their firstborn. Nor had they imagined a feeding trough being Emmanuel’s first bed—God with us welcomed by cows and sheep, perhaps a mourning dove’s song His first lullaby.

The humble shepherds on the Judean hillside would have been the least expected to witness the new King’s arrival, and their message of the Messiah undoubtedly made some raise an eyebrow, questioning the accuracy of their account.

Indeed, little about Jesus’s conception and birth was according to the world’s expectations. Still, He came just as God intended—a Gift of perfect peace and rest to all who intentionally come, pressing in despite the stress of life, to bend low, to be still in His presence.

After all, the sweetest rest is when one knows that—yes!—Emmanuel is God.

May we unwrap rest in the One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes.

May we rest in Christ alone.

Dear Jesus, it seems we’re most susceptible at Christmas—feeling the dichotomy, that tug-of-war in our souls, between resting in the quiet of the manger and being caught up in the world’s expectations, in a flurry of holiday frill. Nothing gives the enemy more delight, because it only pulls us further from You, the Reason for the season. Forgive us, sweet Savior. Remind us daily—moment by moment—why You came, and help us be worthy messengers of Your peace and rest in a weary, worried world. Amen.

**(This post appeared first in Inspire A Fire, an online publication I’m privileged to write for each month. Check it out!)**