Holy Holidays

In my Bible reading this year I have made it up to Leviticus 23.

Its contents may not come immediately to mind, so I will jog your memory. It is a portion of the law for Old Testament Israel, and it outlines the Sabbaths and Festivals for the year of that nation. In other words, the holy days/holidays.

For the Israelite, every holiday had both a portion of rest from regular work, and a reminder about God’s provision or salvation. Kiuchi (Leviticus, 2007) helpfully summarises:

    1. The weekly sabbath – creation
    2. The Passover – salvation
    3. The Sheaf of First Fruits – birth and growth
    4. The Weeks – the beginning of the harvest
    5. The first day of the seventh month – towards inner salvation
    6. The Day of Atonement – inner salvation
    7. The Booths – joyful remembrance of the Lord’s guidance

What struck me reading it this time around is that each and every one of their holidays had a portion devoted to God, yet I find that hard to do with my public holidays and 4 weeks annual leave. 

For us, Easter and Christmas are fixed times of worship in our holiday calendar, thanks to our western Christian heritage. But perhaps if you’re like me, going away on holidays and taking time out of the ‘regular routine’ is when daily prayer and Bible reading is the hardest to keep going?

Of course, as Christians we are not bound to observe the festivals, celebrations and Sabbaths of the Old Covenant, for the reality of rest from our labours and worship is found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17). But if you are like me, and find holidays a harder time than usual to worship Christ, perhaps it reveals we are too formed to the world’s patterns. For our culture worships the celebration and rest of holidays, but has little or no time to celebrate God. Should we not ensure that in our holidays a space given to acknowledge God’s good gifts to us – even the holiday break itself?

Holy days were God’s gift to Israel to be freed from work to rest and celebrate his provision and salvation. What a shame it would be, if we became like the world around us and received the gift of holidays, but forgot the giver?

– Sam Pursell