The Gift of the Sabbath
Image via Wikipedia
God Resting on the Sabbath -
Engraving from First Russian Illustrated Bible
Of all the controversy this holiday season, the one that has rattled me more than anything else is the fact that churches are closing their doors on Sunday, because Christmas falls on that particular day of the week this year. Christian churches with congregations that have opted to "be at home" on Sunday rather than come to church for services.
When the subject came up at my congregation, we decided that the church would most definitely be open with Sunday service as usual. To me this seemed like a no-brainer. After all, we are Christians; it's Jesus birthday celebration AND it is Sunday, the one day a week given to worship and fellowship by many. Then, I wondered, what kind of a message are churches that choose to close giving to the world?
Interestingly, I am reading a book for my seminary courses that touched on the importance of Sabbath. Some of the facts shared by the author were profoundly inspiring. The book, The Ten Challenges by Leonard Felder, Ph.D., discusses how the Ten Commandments are still relevant in today's world.
Felder begins by explaining that the word, Sabbath, comes from the root letters of Shabbat, which have two meanings - first, cease from activity in progress and second, to put everything in its proper place. Felder goes on to quote, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, who said, "An artist cannot be continually wielding his or her brush. The painter must stop at times from the painting to freshen his or her vision of the object, the meaning of which the artist wishes to express on canvas. The Shabbat represents those moments when we pause in our brushwork to renew our vision of the general plan. Having done so, we take ourselves to our painting with clarified vision and renewed energy."
What I took from this is that we observe Sabbath in order to step away from the daily grind of our week, breathe, and gain new perspective on where we are headed and why. Looking at the state of our world, it seems that many of us have forgotten how important the Gift of Sabbath is.
As I continued reading this chapter of Felder's book, I realized that I needed to follow his suggestions more. He suggests that it is not enough to go to church, synagogue or temple once a week. We need to give ourselves permission to have a day free of stress, work and duties - one day, in which we connect with our loved ones and our own inner selves.
One of the amazing facts included in the book is that those who have Sabbath observances are healthier and happier individuals. Of course, this makes perfect sense. I know in my life, I am a much healthier and happier person when I have time to think and engage meaningfully with others.
So, here are some of the ideas for creating a more meaningful Sabbath:
- Turn phones, electronic devices, TV's off. Participate in activities that bring people together facing each other, rather than together facing out at something
- Light candles, say a prayer, sing a song together
- Create a tradition - for instance, on your Sabbath day, have friends and family over for a special meal or begin reading a book together aloud
- Take a nap - this is actually something that was done in the old days
- Go for a walk - it is amazing how much more clarity we have after a good walk
It is not important how you choose to celebrate the Sabbath, just that you do so. Creating a Sabbath day can be something that anyone, from any belief system, anywhere can practice.
Do something special for yourself and your family. Give the Gift of a Sabbath day, observed intentionally.
Blessings to all! Namasté!