So are holidays a break from real life, a pleasant distraction until the meaningful stuff – work – recommences? As someone who works in HR, most of my professional life is based on an assumption that work is valuable and fulfilling.
The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is something different in kind from the six days that have gone before. God rests. In the past, I’ve perhaps written this off as a puzzling divine idiosyncrasy, and in any case an Old Testament wrinkle to be passed over till we get to the interesting stuff.
As ever, I’m getting it almost exactly wrong. The product of each of the first six days’ divine labour has been labelled good, which is beautiful and important. The seventh day is, though, more significant, because we’re not told what God creates, we’re given our first serious glimpse of what God is like. Because God rests, the day itself is holy; that is, it is filled with God’s presence. In other words, the Sabbath is the real day and the others merely shadows. It is not just a pause to recover from the other six days. The Sabbath is, rather, creation’s crowning glory.
Later, when God commands Israel to keep the Sabbath, it is not just about religious restrictions: God is reminding us why we were made – not in the end for labour, but to delight in God, and in each other.
How might our lives be different if we kept this commandment? What if we were meant not to be busy working all the time, but to simply be with each other, like the Son is, forever, with the Father in the unity of the Spirit? What if our true identity is not found in sweat and toil, but as people of the Sabbath?