Christian, holidays, life

Reclaiming Our Times of Rest

It’s that time again – that time of year when every month has at least one major holiday, someone or something to commemorate and celebrate.  The next few months are filled with occasions for gathering, giving, and participating in special ceremonies honoring the seasons.

As we enter this festive time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the activities we pack into a fairly small stretch of calendar.  In our efforts to make these times special, we sometimes over-plan and stretch our minds, bodies, and schedules as far as they will go.

Just as in the rest of the year, it’s important to guard our times of rest.  Holidays are intended for our refreshment.  When we take time to care for our bodies and minds by resting, we are better prepared to engage in the spiritual exercises of reflecting and rejoicing – which is what holidays are all about.

The “Set-Apart” Times

The word “holiday” is a shortening of “holy day”.  Something holy is set apart for a special use, usually for a spiritual or religious purpose.

So a holiday is a day set apart – for remembrance, for rest, for taking time out of our everyday business for something (or someone) special.

God set aside one weekly holiday – the Sabbath – as a day to rest (Genesis 2:1-3).  Most major holidays in the Bible involved rest (Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 33-36; 29:1).  Rest was a way to honor God and join with others in celebrating His goodness.

Too often, especially during the active seasons, we let busyness encroach on our “set-apart” times.  Preparations and commitments build up until we barely have space for another word on the to-do list.  Rather than setting the holy days apart with rest, we end up setting them apart with extra busyness.

This needs to change.  Rest is important.  If God Himself rested for a day as an example for us, and instituted days and even years of rest for the Israelites (Lev. 25:8-12), we also should take rest seriously.

As you plan for the season, find holiday activities that not only honor the occasion but also refresh you.  Talk with your family and friends and choose a schedule that meets everyone’s needs while allowing some breathing room.  Set limits – and keep them.

Jesus reminds us, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NRSV)  We need to guard our times of rest.

The Spiritual Importance of Rest

Rest is important for not only our physical and mental health, but our spiritual health as well.  Rest replenishes our physical, mental, and spiritual resources, enabling us to work well and give freely.  In this way, we can better fulfill the call to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).

Rest is also a way of honoring and caring for God’s handiwork.  Our bodies are formed by God (Psalm 139:13-14).  And as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, making us “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Allowing our bodies needed rest shows that we not only respect ourselves but the One who made and values us.

Most importantly, rest prepares us to connect with God.  God is a God of mighty wonders – but He is also a God of stillness (1 Kings 19:11-13).  It is often in the quiet moments, when we stop our busy motion and silence the distractions, that we hear Him best.  And when we trust Him enough to let go of our lives for a set apart time, we find He is trustworthy and faithful to meet our needs in His own way and time.

God asks us to “be still and know that I am God“ (Psalm 46:10).  Rest of mind and body make for a rested, focused spirit.  It is much easier to reflect on who God is and what we have to celebrate – to rejoice freely in His presence and to truly “keep holyday” (Ps. 42:4, KJV).

So, as we enter this time again of remembering and rejoicing, let’s remember to set apart this time to refresh our bodies and spirits.

How can you celebrate the upcoming holidays in a way that promotes rest?

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