R-E-S-T Do these four letters describe your month of December? It certainly isn’t the first word that comes to my mind. Yet as we look at biblical celebrations like Passover, the Festival of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Shelters, we find the concept of Sabbath to be an important one. God was very specific in the verses we read from Leviticus today to instruct the people to include rest in their celebrations. The rest included:
- Stopping all ordinary work
- Gathering for holy assembly
- Complete rest
- Presenting the Lord with special gifts
- Denying self
- Solemn occasion
God created us. He knows we need to stop and remember. We must break from ordinary routines so that we can commune with Him in celebration and commemoration. These Israelite holidays were meant to help the people remember what the Lord had done for them –
- He delivered them from Egypt.
- He atoned for their sin.
- He led them safely through the wilderness.
The sacred celebrations were a time to stop and remember. At Christmas we do a similar thing. We incorporate new rituals, connect with people, and stop our ordinary routines to think about what the Lord has done. He sent His son to earth.
John 3:16 reminds us why He did this, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” That is why we celebrate. However, we can’t just stop ordinary work and fill it with new kinds of busyness. Instead we are to plan for times of complete rest.
I’m not an expert at this. I can write about it, but I struggle to actually do it. Resting sometimes makes me feel guilty and unproductive. Our culture doesn’t value rest, it values leisure. There is a difference. The biblical definition of rest is not escaping. It is not endless hours of staring at a screen or being entertained, biblical rest brings us closer to the Lord and nourishes our soul.
We are wired up so differently that some things that are restful for me might not be restful for you. So we must prayerfully pursue rest. One question we can ask is this: “Does this restful encounter bring me closer to God?” When my body is refreshed with sleep, I find myself less irritated. Fatigue can leave me vulnerable to attacks of the enemy. So in a way, physical rest can bring me closer to God.
Other activities that are restful for me include:
- Taking a walk.
- Seeing God’s creation/nature.
- Reading a good book or novel.
- Reading the Bible.
- Working on a puzzle.
- Writing in my journal.
- Just lying on the couch thinking.
- Having a conversation with someone I love.
My husband would not find several of the things on my list restful. Instead he might prefer to play a sports game, listen to music, or interact with a group of people. Introverts and extroverts might find different types of things restful. In the past year I have tried to be more intentional about rest. I’ve put it in my schedule and dedicated some days to putting away all electronic devices (including my phone) to rest from “notifications.” I found myself still trying to be productive in my rest. I would read a commentary I know I will need for a future book. I’d take a walk to get in some exercise. Someone recently shared with me that true rest produces nothing.
For those who struggle with worshipping at the altar of productivity, that’s a tough one. How about you? We are not under the Old Testament law and most of us don’t observe the Jewish festivals. However, we can learn from the example of biblical celebration that rest is an important aspect of our faith. We don’t want to rush through Christmas and check off our lists and just get it all done. We want to connect with God as we remember His love and relish the gift of His Son.
Thoughtfully written by Melissa Spoelstra.
Share This Post