Happy Holidays! This is a greeting/sentiment you will most likely hear during the next several weeks. Probably many of you reading this blog post are aware of the root meaning of our English word “holiday”. It comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). It was originally used only for “religious” days on the church calendar. Today, though, “holiday” refers to any special day of rest or relaxation. Rest and relaxation. Let those two words, and the many connotations associated with them sink in. Can you feel the irony? I ask you, how many of us actually enter into and experience our holidays with a deep sense of rest and relaxation? Usually, we feel instead, like the proverbial headless chicken, running around like crazy while our life drains out of us. At the very least, we are aware of this pull toward busyness and oh, so much to do, and we must fight constantly against it. I would like to encourage you in this post, with a few reflections and ideas that might help you experience the rest and relaxation we all need, and by doing so, experience a sense of holiness, gifted by our Holy Good God.
First, consider the word “holy” itself. The basic idea behind it, besides its ethical and moral tones, is to be “set aside” or to be “separated” for God’s use. For example, even the utensils in the Old Testament tabernacle and Temple were called “holy” because they were set aside, separated for special use (Lev.8:10-11; Numbers 7:1). Consider how this idea of seeing our holidays become holy days by being more intentional about what you choose to do or not to do during these days. For example, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong about shopping or eating special foods during the holidays, when we do these things, are we doing them in a “holy” manner, or, are just doing them because “that’s what you do” during the holidays? May I suggest we can partake or not partake of holiday activities in a holy manner by becoming more consciously aware of why we do certain things. What is your motivation? Do these activities leave you more related and rested, or, do they just add to the strain of the season? If it’s the latter and not the former, then we are experiencing the season as a holiday but not truly a holy day.
Second, be very intentional and diligent to spend time with the God we thank and celebrate during the holidays. Perhaps you have a time each day where you like to get aside and spend it with God, reading His Word, meditating upon it, and quieting your spirit as you listen to and talk to Him in prayer. This “quiet-time” some call it, this discipline of being “set aside” to hear from Him and talk to Him, by its very nature is a holy time. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but I would encourage you, by His enabling grace, to be even more diligent to enter into this holy time with Him during the holidays. The pull and the strain of all the things we feel we “must” do during this season, has the illusion of promising anything and everything we need, all except a sense of rest and relaxation that comes with a true holy day.
Third, reflect deeply upon the reason for the season. Yes, it’s a cliché, but a helpful one! I’ll suggest the main reason for the holy day season can be summed up in the following words: “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whosoever believed in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Consider especially those familiar four first words: “For God so loved . . .” With Thanks-giving and Christmas, we celebrate “God so loved”. He has given us so much. Food, clothing, health, friends, family, shelter, opportunities to work, His beautiful creation, and, of course, He has given us His Son Who invites us to be new creations, connected to Him (2 Cor. 5:17). If you and I will reflect deeply upon the reason for the season, that God so loved, we will be amazed. We will be humbled. We will be stirred, we will worship. And, may I suggest, we will enter into a rest and a relaxation that is ours as we come to the Gentle and humble One. We will find rest for our souls during the holidays (Matt. 11:28-30). And these busy holidays will become holy days. He invites to His love. Will we come?