Dear Sabbath Seekers,
I must admit that I am a bit of a Christmas Eve service snob. There has to be context, content, and cooperation in every Christmas Eve service I attend…and I have attended many…even led a few myself. Without those three aspects of the special nature of this particular worship time, I do not feel as if I have been to a service commemorating Christ’s birth.
And, alas, I didn’t find them in this year’s service that I attended. More specifically, what I didn’t find was the Christmas story either from Matthew or Luke and it was like missing a dear, old friend who lifts my heat and gives me hope.
There were carols, symbols and a short discussion with the children that fleshed out the reason for the service but without that story of Mary, Joseph, the birth, the Shepherds and the Heavenly Host I found the context and content missing. The scripture to me is a bold reminder of how the incarnation became flesh and dwelt among us in a poor, homeless, unwed couple amid the muck and mud of all that is primal. It reminds me that God comes in mysterious and unlikely ways and gives me hope this mucky and muddy world we live in.
And I as I pondered my reaction to this omission, which I am sure didn’t cause anyone else a moment’s angst, I realized that there are many aspects of the Bible that we just don’t hear about very often. Sabbath being one of them.
When was the last time you heard a sermon on the sin of ignoring the fourth commandment? When was the last time Christians were encouraged to stop and observe a 24 hour rest period because God told us to? When was the last time that the purpose and power of Sabbath was sung about in a hymn or discussed for 4 weeks at a time? When was the last time that two major world religions, Judaism and Christianity, issued a joint statement that they agreed upon the need for Sabbath and would be doing everything they could to make it a priority among its followers? When was the last time you heard people arguing over what to call Sabbath – a day of rest vs. a day of catching up on errands?
Just a few of the thoughts that came to mind as I pondered what happens to me when I don’t have the familiar words read to me to commemorate a special occasion in the Christian church.
The Lord’s day, Sabbath, Sunday is a special day in the Christian church but we don’t often get upset when it isn’t mentioned, preached about, or used as a reminder of just what a gift that 24 hours of rest was from our God – Emmanuel, God with us.
Maybe one of the ways we keep the Christmas spirit alive all year is to observe the Sabbath, take Sabbath moments and remember the one whose birth the angels sang about and like Mary, ponder it in our hearts, as we treasure all the gifts of God for the people of God.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to all on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2.14