As schools break up for the summer, many people are wishing each other “happy holidays”. What does the word “holiday” mean to you? For some, it will mean going away; for others, a change of routine that will bring challenges as well as joys. Holidays may be a distant memory or a longed-for opportunity.
In the Bible, nobody appears to go away on holiday! Journeys in both the Old and New Testaments are not essentially leisure trips but have a specific purpose. They may be made to visit relatives, as Mary did when she went to see Elizabeth, (Luke 1. 39 – 56); to escape famine, as Jacob’s sons did when they travelled from Canaan to Egypt (Exodus 42. 1 –6); or to return to one’s home country, as in the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus 12.37 – 18.27). Journeys are also occasions for itinerant ministry. Jesus teaches his disciples and heals while they are travelling on foot from one place to another. St Paul’s journeys are part of his mission to the Gentile world.
Jesus, however, models the true sense of holiday when he withdraws from the crowds and spends time on his own to pray to God the Father. He demonstrates the importance of taking time apart, a “Sabbath” in which one can be revitalised spiritually, physically and mentally by breaking with routine. He embodies the seventh day of the Creation story on which God rested from all his labours. Our English word “holiday” literally means “holy day” on which we can restore ourselves and get closer in touch with the holiness of God all around us.
Here in Bicester both the Churches Together Holiday Club for children and the Holiday at Home for older people offer that true sense of Sabbath holy-day. In both initiatives there is an opportunity to step out of routine, be creative and discover more of the presence of God in our lives. One can also carve out time at home to escape from chores, television or social media and discover the sacredness that is at the heart of everyday life.
So, whatever you’re doing during the summer, whether at home or away, have some “happy holy-days”!