During term time, early in the morning, a steady stream of children pass my door on the way to the local schools, and the tide turns in the afternoon when they pass by again going back to their homes. When the schools are closed it is very quiet! There is an air of almost desolation, and going by the schools, the places are closed up, gates are shut and often padlocked, waiting for term to begin again and life to be infused into them once more.
Holidays are precious gifts given to us; they are the sabbaticals from work or daily living. We often choose to go somewhere different to our normal routines. It is odd when you live by the sea to go to another seaside resort, but we do – or at least I do!
But Holidays were once ‘Holy Days’, and some of you may remember having a day off school for a Christian Festival, such as Corpus Christi, that we no longer tend to celebrate. The idea of Holy Days comes from the Old Testament. These times were special for they focussed on God and what he had done for his people, and gave the community opportunity to rejoice, celebrate, and just take time off from day to day living. Amongst the commands that God gave his people was the command to celebrate Holy Days. Some were weekly, like the Sabbath; some were annual, like the Passover; and the early Christians continued to observe these special days for they were God-given.
We still do have designated Holy Days, but I wonder how many we still keep. Every Sunday, the Nativity of the Lord (25th December), the Epiphany of the Lord (6th January), Good Friday (moveable feast depending on Easter), the Ascension of the Lord (Thursday after 6th Sunday of Easter), St Peter & St Paul (29th June), the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15th August), All Saints’ Day (1st November) – at least 54 Holy Days, and possibly 59! How many did you keep last year?
Yet many of our school holidays are still planned around the traditional Holy Days, but many folk would not now attribute those days to worshipping and thinking about God. Yes it’s a holiday, but not a Holy Day as such. How different would we view our holidays if we were to reclaim them as Holy Days and see them as a gift from God?
Jesus observed the Holy Days – they were integral to his faith and understanding of God – and when we forget to observe these Holy Days then we deny that space to be with God, yet it is so important to our well being, both spiritually and physically, that God commanded these Holy days should be kept forever (Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41). What I find amazing is that we are commanded to take this time out, to spend it being renewed and energised, and to do something different. However there are some who will take a busman’s holiday – a holiday where you do just what you normally would do – and it has its origins as far back as the 1840s when the busmen would ride on their own bus on their holiday to ensure their horse was not being abused or mistreated by the relief driver. I hope you are not one of them!
So it is quiet in my road, the school holidays have started, and for parents, teachers and pupils there is time for a well earned rest!
Bless, O Lord,
those who are taking time out for a holiday.
May it be a Holy Day too,
where your presence is felt
and your Spirit is able to bring rest and renewal to tired minds and bodies.
For those able to travel give journeying mercies;
for those who stay at home, space to be with you.
You can download this Prayer for the Week as a pdf here
Prayers for July by Denise Creed