by Rev. Mark Caldwell, FUMC Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First, read Hebrews 4:9
According to the popular Christmas song The 12 Days of Christmas, we have a dozen days to immerse ourselves in the Christmas season. According to the Advent calendar, we have 25 days to immerse ourselves in the Christmas season. Some may even stretch this out and cheat by a few days by putting up the Christmas decorations just after the Thanksgiving feast is cleaned up. But even this tactic adds only a few days to the Christmas festivities.
Maybe we should be more like department stores and just go ahead and go full-bore into Christmas mode right after Halloween. Do you think we would see a spike in church attendance if we offered eight weeks of Advent? I doubt it. And I doubt it would add much more to the season by adding days of holiday observance. We would fill those days with obligatory functions and festivities that may prove to be fun, yet ultimately draining.
When and where do we find Sabbath in the midst of Christmas? It isn't in the ambitious shopping sprees. It doesn't come from another function. And it certainly isn't found if you are participating in a program. Maybe we lose sight of Sabbath rest because we tend to focus so much on Jesus-the second Person of the Trinity that we neglect the First Person of the Trinity -- the Creator who took time to rest on the seventh day.
We worship a God that honors rest. We are fortunate to worship a God that also sanctifies rest. Even in the ambitious activities of the season, when and where can we rest? We find it only when we make it a priority.
For most of us, the term “Requiem” reminds us of classical music. In reality, though, the term has much deeper connotations. The Latin root word, “requies” translates literally into “rest”, but the nature of Requiems composed in classical music focus on rest for the souls of those who have died. And although this may seem morose for Christmas, we see souls that have died to the essence of the season.
Perhaps a well-rested Christian might model what a healthy observance looks like as we are filled with energy and life because we make Sabbath a priority in a season that tends to leach every free moment from us. See where you can give the gift of rest to yourself. Schedule it in. Mail yourself an invitation. Take time to be with God and understand that you just gave yourself a divine gift.
By December 12th the last thing on our usual to do list is rest. But, resting is exactly what today’s scripture is all about. As children, we learn about the activity of God’s Sabbath day and how God rested on the seventh day. Much to our children’s rejoicing and our own disappointment, this holy rest does not mean a nap. Rather, Sabbath rest means setting aside time to be with God. As long as our focus is on God, Sabbath can take place in any way, shape or form.
For some of us, Sabbath is spending time reading scripture or in prayer. For others, Sabbath takes place out in nature or with friends who restore our faith and hope. Take the evening and devote your time and activity to God.
Do the things that mean rest and Sabbath for you and for your kids. Maybe it just means turning on the Christmas lights, making some hot cocoa and spending the evening together in your pajamas. While together, perhaps you can read a children’s version of the Christmas story. Whatever you choose, be sure to explain why you are spending Sabbath in this way with your kids and how it brings rest to your soul.
What would it look like to set aside a family Sabbath on a regular basis?