Abide

Welcome back to the Messy Coffee Table, and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Whether you’re celebrating the season with family, friends, co-workers, pets, or all of the above, I hope this message finds you enjoying all it has to offer, under an umbrella of peace. If you’re like me you know how easy it is to just say yes to everything because we don’t want to miss out on any of the festivities. But sometimes that can just be a lot, maybe even too much. So if you need permission to say no to a party or two this year, please know that you HAVE it! Your schedule, and your peace of mind, will thank you for it.

Last time, we gathered around this message of making room for God in this holiday season. The practice of inviting him into our “heart-home” as we talked about can be both beautiful and painful all at the same time. And once we’ve invited God in…into our hearts, our stories, into each and every moment…then we are invited to abide with Him there. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

What does it mean to “abide?” Jesus emphasized the importance of abiding in Him in John chapter 15. He compares himself to a vine, and us (believers) to the branches of the vine. It reads:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  John 15:1-11

I love this image. With Jesus as the vine, we, the branches, receive all we have and all we need from Him. All nutrients and nourishment that sustains us comes from Him. And any fruit that we bear is also the result of His power, His nourishment, His Spirit. But what I love the most is that God the Father is the vinedresser, or the gardener. The whole plant (the body of Christ) exists because He planted it. All that blooms from it is made possible by the blood of Jesus, designed and tended to by the gardener, our Father in heaven. Sometimes, much like the renovations of the walls of our heart-home, that tending-to includes pruning, as he hems us in to allow more fruit to grow in our lives.

And so comes this call: “Abide in my love.” This word “abide” has stuck with me over the past several months and it’s a theme I believe God is really pressing in to my heart right now, if not just because it keeps coming up everywhere. In our small groups for Worship Circle, the worship leader mentorship program I’ve been doing, we’ve all been assigned different books to read and one of ours is “Abiding in Christ” by Andrew Murray. The book is all about how crucial the daily practice of getting alone with God and being in His Word is for every Christian, wherever they are in their faith journey. In our discipleship groups at our church, daily personal worship is emphasized week after week. And at a small worship event for our church officers, one of the guest speakers spoke about prayer, abiding in Christ in our daily walk, and how all we do can and should flow from this place.

And now, in this Christmas season, as we sing “prepare Him room” I ponder whether we are also preparing to abide with Him once He has entered in…to not just welcome His presence, but to stay awhile in it, daily. I actually scribbled verse 9 of this passage into the Christmas cards we sent out this year. It’s not the most Christmas-y of scriptures, but I chose it because I feel God stirring in me, as the holiday approaches, a deep need to abide in the love of God first and always, and to encourage those around us to do the same.

And so what does that mean for us? What does that look like?

The dictionary defines the word abide as “to accept or act in accordance with.” So if we read that passage again, Jesus is saying “accept me/my love” or “act in accordance with me/my love.” But I think abiding goes deeper than that. Other translations use the phrase “remain in me.” The Message translation literally says “make your home in me.” And that’s exactly it. To abide in Christ is to make your home in His presence, and to stay awhile.

Think about all you do when you move into a new place. You make it your own. You decorate. You put up family pictures and artwork. You might even create a cozy space to curl up and be at rest. Eventually, you invite people there. You’ll begin and end each day there….and return to that place daily. Abiding in Christ is simply that: making your home in Him and returning to Him and His Word daily.

I’ll be the first to admit, I am SO inconsistent with this, even as this theme is just burning in my heart these days. The hustle and bustle of life makes it easy to go through the motions, get things done, and not carve out what feels like “luxurious” time to just be with God. But let me tell you, the days I do prioritize that time do feel different. They’re not all sunshine and rainbows…in fact the struggle may very well still be real. But I move through the day from a different place…a place of having been with the One who knows me, sees me, and loves me, and empowers me from within to take each next step. And so that time no longer feels luxurious to me…it’s so very necessary.

Remember, it’s not all up to you to just “feel” the presence of God every day. Jesus says it’s a two-way street: “Abide in me, and I in you.” As you make your home daily with the Lord, His Spirit continually makes His home in you. He empowers you to open up the doors and invite Him in…and He continues to invite you into His presence again and again. (If you haven’t already heard me talk about The Glorious in the Mundane podcast, now is a great time to check it out. Christy Nockles’ episodes “The Invitation” and “A House God is Building” both beautifully illustrate this idea).

Have you made your home in Him? As you walk through this Christmas season, I encourage you to carve out time in prayer and just invite God into wherever you are. Make room for Him. And then, as you move through the days of family gatherings, church services, or however else you may be celebrating, I just pray that you would abide in His love always. That you would take each step from a place of rest in your true Home in Him. That you would spend time daily returning to that familiar place, and find your peace there in the midst of the chaos. And if you still don’t know how to get there…just ask God to show you. Ask Him to be your place of rest.

I can’t end this post without going back to verse 11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy would be in you, and that your joy may be full.” If you’re struggling to find joy in this season, take heart in knowing that in Him, you can have joy to the fullest. That doesn’t mean all things will be easy-going…it just means that you are abiding in the source of all joy. By abiding in Him, you will be filled with a joy that transcends any circumstance, a joy that begets the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Make room for Him. Abide in Him. Be filled with His joy. And have a very Merry Christmas. ❤

For God’s glory,

—Kayla

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