Over the years I have spent a number of times celebrating the birth with a family. Every time it is interesting and new. But one common thread, if there is not a complication, is upon completion of the birth and the baby makes their first cry, the family and seemingly the world stops to stand still and just be in the moment. For a split second, no matter what the worry might have been or whatever may be going on outside, the room does not seem to exist; it is all about that moment and the new precious life breathing their first breath.
In a real way, it is a moment of letting go in order to just be present. For what is often too short of a time, the “what ifs” and “what’s next” stop and people take a needed Sabbath. Unfortunately, this is often too short. In fact, in much of our lives we do not take the time for Sabbath, to just be present.
Sabbath is one of the most important parts of a faithful life. God models this Sabbath in the very first creation story. Upon completion of the world, God took a break before he assumingly “went back to work.” When you look at the two Creation stories, the first one, lets call it the seven-day story, is very scientific and logical. Interestingly, the imagery of this creation story cannot be separated from the imagery of birth. The completion being the human, followed by the moment of letting things just be.
As we come to the week after Christmas, the church tends to be utter quiet. As much of the activities cease for a week and a usually hopping place is almost painfully quiet, we as a church take a break and just revel in being. This is why I usually take the week after Christmas off, to celebrate the Sabbath and find renewal and strength for the coming year.
Like a new parent of a child knows, finding moments of rest are crucial for the health and stability of the family. In our own lives, finding breaks allow us to have a clearer vision and understanding of the full glory of God. Think, there was a lot of time between when Christ was born and the moment he started his ministry. Though we can speculate that he did things before his formal ministry started, it is clear that there was a needed break between when he came to this world, and the start of his ministry, just as there was a time between when he left this world, to then come back on Easter morning, and then to leave again, only to come back as the Holy Spirit.
As we see, Sabbath is not about giving up or turning away, it is about giving us the space to relax and refocus. Interestingly, every time Christ challenged the Sabbath Laws, it was not on the notion of giving time for ourselves; he challenged the notion that the Sabbath was a penitential time of abstinence, which he showed us it is not. In Sabbath we take care of those we need to care for and ourselves, just as Christ did.
I encourage you to take some Sabbath before the New Year. If not a day, try a few hours to just be. You might find it interesting what develops, and how you find yourself thinking about the New Year.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen