Reading a break from work differently; Holidays and Holy-days

by Hilary Horn

By Rodney Marsh

There is much modern recognition that, for our mental health if nothing else, we need rest from work. However, there is little modern guidance on how to ‘rest’ beyond saying that we must stop work. In my life, learning the discipline two thirty minutes of still silence has taught me that ‘rest’ is the most vital work I can do. The work of stillness and silence is, in fact, the fount of all my external work. 

So, in my workplace (a school) I wrote this piece to encourage students, staff and families to have a real rest (which isn’t a trip to Bali or more golf rounds) during the two week break from school. Here’s why our modern world needs to turn holiday back into holy-days.

How to Make the Holidays Holy Days

“…God…. rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”  — Genesis 2:2,3

God doesn’t get tired, so why did God rest on the seventh day of creation? Because, though God had completed his work in six days, God had not yet inserted into time and space, space and time for rest. God had finished creating but God had not finished work, yet.

 The time and space of creation needed space and time to ‘be’. God needed to simply ‘be’ not ‘do’ in order to enjoy what had been made and in order for creation to be truly complete. The creation story shows that rest/recreation/enjoyment is part of God’s nature and so, being made in God’s image, stopping work and taking up the work of rest (being), is essential to human nature. The ‘rest’ of God is simple enjoyment and celebration of being/reality and we can do it too.

This story of scripture shows us that rest and recreation are not optional extras in life, rather, they are essential aspect of life. These periods of time off ‘work’ we call holidays, because they were originally given as ‘holy’ days (God blessed the seventh day and made it holy) dedicated to rest-oration, re-creation. Rest is, in this way, a holy activity.

After each of the days of creation, God sees what has been made and labels it good. All people and creation are held in God’s being and this makes all that is, good. Rest is ‘holy’ because it is the simple enjoyment of the goodness of our being and sharing that being with others. Each of us holds a valued place in all that is, but we need to stop all our doing in order to find that valued place. Rest becomes holy when we make time and space in our lives to experience the goodness of all that is. Smell the roses. Smile. Enjoy life. ‘Be’ with your family. ‘Be’ with your Jesus’ family.

Rest also creates meaning and purpose in our lives. Our lives only have meaning if we stop doing/making/working, and learn to rest. Work alone cannot create meaning for us because we are not our achievements or our possessions, nor are we others’ opinions of us. If we take time to be instead of do, we discover that meaning emerges in our life, is meaning’s fruit: peace, hope and joy.

Being purposeful about resting in the goodness of all things, is what holy-days (holidays) are for. My advice for these holy-days: identify what feeds your soul, your wellbeing, and set aside time to feed your soul. Make music. Find some jumping whales to watch. Walk our beautiful coastline. Go for a run. Play games (not computer games, but board games etc). Exercise. Play sport. Praise God with others etc. 

Another hint: Do not waste time pursuing pleasure or entertainment in the digital world, for these things stimulate our imaginations and imaginary achievements but, in general, do not restore or recreate our spirit and you cannot ‘be’ with others if you are looking at a screen.


A Prayer

Holy, good God,

In these holy-days,

Give us rest from our doing.

Grant us sweet rest from demands.

Fill our being with peace.

Re-create our soul.

Re-store our spirit.

Send dew drops of joy onto all we do.


In these holy-days,

We give the gift of our presence,

To those we love,

And to You,

Holy, good God.


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1 comment

Heather H. April 11, 2020 - 10:54 am

This is lovely – especially while approaching Easter while isolating during this COVID-19 pandemic. It is a gift to rest and be alone with God. A gift many may have the opportunity to pursue and open during this difficult time.

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