A THEOLOGY OF HOLIDAY

I don’t know about you, but I have found the last six months have felt like the longest six months of my life. The COVID lockdown and all its associated pressures have been exhausting, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Added to that is the uncertainty about the future we are living with, will the virus return, will lockdown be reimposed, will I have a job next year?

I feel like I need a holiday.

 Have you ever thought about the fact that having a holiday is a profoundly Christian thing to do?

 I am sure you are aware that the word the word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). The word originally referred only to special religious days- These would be days when people refrained from their normal routines of daily work, they rested and relaxed and that in turn led to renewal. Holy Days like Christmas were often a time for celebration as well. Eventually holidays came to mean a break from work for rest and relaxation. What I want to suggest to you is that, that is something God doesn’t suggest we do, He commands us to do it.

You see God takes the idea of holidays pretty seriously. He commanded the people of Israel to rest from work one day a week, to completely not partially rest from work. He also commanded the Israelites to have several times of national feasts throughout the year. These were times when families would have to leave their normal routines and work and take the time to travel to Jerusalem. These feasts were times when people not only rested from physical work, they were also times of celebrations and opportunities to draw closer to family and God. So in the Old Testament we see this pattern of work and rest woven into people’s weekly and yearly routine.

Jesus himself seems to have built into his life this rhythm of work and rest. After intense periods of ministry, the Gospels often tell us he would withdraw to quite places. Jesus intentionally took time away from his “work” and sought out places where he could be renewed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In these quite places he spent time with his friends, the twelve, rested from his exertions and prayed, he took the chance to spend time with his heavenly father.

I don’t think enough of us take seriously enough that God actually intended us to take holiday, or rest, for it to be a part of the pattern of our life.

I can remember being at some pastors’ gatherings early in my ministry and a couple of church leaders talking about how they had been too busy to take a holiday that year. That seemed noble and sacrificial to me as a pastor just starting out. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, thinking about it, I have changed my opinion.   Workaholism, the refusal to stop working and rest, is not a sign of sanctification its just the opposite. It is a fundamental refusal to live God’s way, which the last time I looked, is what sin is.

So, my advice to you right now is, do what God intended,  have a holiday.

Go somewhere you can rest and relax and renew your relationship with family, friends, and God. Put that “out of the office” message on your email and then don’t look at your email again till you go back to work. Leave your normal routine behind. Don’t feel guilty about doing nothing “productive.”

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