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Today is Sunday, December 8: the Second Sunday in Advent.
With Thanksgiving falling “late” this year, Advent seems to be flying by, and Christmas will be here in no time! Is your shopping done? Do you at least know what you’re shopping for? Did you get the cards sent? Is there baking to prepare for and do? (and we’ve had such mild weather, have you winterized your car and checked your snowblower?) Hurry up! You have a lot to do!
But today is Sunday. Take a breath. Take a moment. Put your feet up. Clear your mind of worries and stresses as best you can. Rest a little.
There are many trite or pithy little phrases: “You can’t give from an empty basket.” and “Put on your own oxygen mask first; then assist others” and so forth.
God’s word for that idea is “Sabbath.” In Exodus 20: 8-11, God said:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your town. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
And God said in Ezekiel 20:20
Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.
For some people, worshipping on Sunday morning is an obligation. They go to church because God is taking attendance, so they have to be in their assigned seat so that God sees them and does not mark them absent. (Is that why people tend to sit in the same seats each week?) They may be reading the Ezekiel verse, above. They show up, and sit there dozing: but they’re in the building. Isn’t that what we’re ‘supposed to do’?
Jesus teaches us that God is not looking for check-box attendance. The faithful go to church to gather in a community where they can refresh and strengthen their relationship with God and God’s people. They go to orient their week, and so also to orient their lives, keeping God first so that all that follows is guided and rooted from that source. They go to lay down their burdens and concerns. They go to be filled with the peace of God.
Then he [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Jesus teaches us that we need a Sabbath to be healthy and happy. We need to rest and be restored.
Try to make it to the gathering: it does matter. But if you really cannot, still take some Sabbath time. Take a breath and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Take a moment to be in the presence of God. Put your feet up to be cleansed and washed by the Master. Clear your mind as you place your worries and concerns in God’s strong and loving hands. Rest a little in the peace of the Lord.