The holidays are coming!
The holidays are coming!
Do you feel like that announcement sounds more like a call to action from Paul Revere riding through the streets than a call to greater rest, peace and joy? If holidays (I believe the etymology is holy-days) are, by nature, times when we rest from our regular work and are meant to make deeper connections with God and with those in our family and community, why do so many of us make them times of frenetic activity and frazzled nerves?
If you read through the Old Testament you’ll see God wove many holidays (feasts and celebrations) into the very fabric of life of the Hebrew people. Some of these lasted a day, some a week or more. Besides the many special holidays/feasts, God gave his people one day each week to be at rest and connect more deeply with him and each other.
Sadly that day became the most abused and shackled day of the week by the time Jesus walked this earth. Instead of the freedom, rest, and joy it was meant to bring, hundreds of extra rules and regulations had made it a burden to conscience, a denier of justice, and and a miscommunication of the nature of God and the peace found with him. As you read through the Gospels you’ll note many times Jesus directly challenges the popular misconceptions about the Sabbath that had grown up around it.
Those misconceptions remain. I must confess I have misunderstood and misapplied Jesus’ words on the Sabbath for the majority of my life. His words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” were meant to free people to experience the joy of Sabbath once again. I have often interpreted and used them to the other extreme: rejecting the need for Sabbath in my life and thus depriving myself of one of the most basic rhythms for which I was created in God’s image.
I know I am not the only one. Busyness, overworking, and overloaded schedules have become pervasive idols in our society, even, and perhaps especially, among Christians. To slow down, yes even stop regular activity (a “day off” to catch up on all your other business is not a Sabbath), for one entire day each week and extra time on vacations and holidays is often seen as lazy, self-centered, and unproductive. Don’t believe me? Have you ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need to recover from your vacation? I rest my case.
This is not how God made us. This is not what he made us for. Jesus was saying that the Sabbath is meant to serve us, refresh us, heal our hurts, restore our weariness, and help us understand the very nature of God’s grace toward us. As one theologian taught, “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and “doing nothing” is to miss the heart of Christianity.” He means grace.
You will be greatly tempted during the holidays to just add to your schedule and (once again) miss the purpose of holidays. I pray you have the power to resist that temptation and take this season to connect more deeply with God, your family, and community of faith. You’ll note we have plenty of things happening around here during the holidays. They aren’t meant to be a burden, they are meant to enhance your celebration of the story above all stories: the life and work of Jesus our Savior. Take them in as they enhance your connection to God and others. Rest alone with God if you need to. Above all remember that Christ entered this world in human flesh to save you from your sin, make you a brother or sister in his father’s kingdom, and bring you home to rest and rejoice with him for eternity. What a holiday that will be.
– Pastor Dan