Tuesday, April 6, 2010

what I'm reading: are holidays Christian? from Tim Chester's The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness

Tim Chester once received a brochure in a Christian magazine. Inside were photos of exhausted family members struggling with homemaking, work and filling the church roster(!). The answer to busyness? An expensive Christian holiday in France! As Chester says, "This was clearly only an answer for wealthy people."

Like my friend Gordo, Chester's not keen on the idea of holidays. He says we've replaced God's pattern of weekly rest with an unhealthy pattern of "binge resting" and retirement.

I'm not completely convinced: what about the Old Testament festivals? God's people were commanded to rest not only on the weekly Sabbath, but also at regular times throughout the year, and even every seventh year (long-service leave?! See my post on special days). But I do agree that many of us (including me!) need to re-learn how to take weekly days of rest.

What do you think? Are holidays Christian?

Holidays are a recent thing. ... It's only in the past hundred years that most people have received paid leave. Legislation enforcing one week's paid annual holiday was introduced in 1936. When people say they need a holiday they should remember the generations who never had a holiday - at least, not in the sense of a week away.

Our society has adopted a pattern of 48 weeks of work and four weeks of rest. We overwork for most of the year and then 'binge rest' for four weeks. But this was not the pattern for which we were made. We 'need' our holidays because our normal lives are so out of balance. The sustainable answer is not an annual holiday, but to get back to a biblical pattern of work and rest structured around a week.

It's doubtful if holidays are good for us. ... Most say they feel as stressed as ever by the end of their first week back. When you pattern is 48 weeks work and four weeks rest then your holiday is everything. ... Life has become week after week of toil for two weeks in the sun.

We not only spread the work-rest pattern over a year instead of a week. We spread it over a lifetime. We overwork for maybe 40 years to set up a retirement of leisure. Neither the overwork nor the retirement is healthy or godly. The Bible doesn't recognize the category of retirement. Work is to be part of life throughout life. ... People may retire from employment, but still have years of active service left to give to the church or community.

from Tim Chester's The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness pp. 29-30

images are from alainkun and HRC at flickr


Valori said...

Hm-m-m, interesting. I personally get very refreshed from different holidays (or vacations as we call them in the US). The change of pace, the extended time with family (and sometimes with just my husband!) -- they are all treasured memories for me. I do think the way I approach them makes all the difference, though. If I try to make vacation my refuge instead of God, it never works! And I think it's important to learn to "rest" weekly, if not daily, and to remember that I am a limited creature.

Kath said...

I have never thought about it like this. It sounds like a good book.
Being able to rest regularly means admitting we are not indispensible (I suspect I mean we are dispensible) and bowing out of the "who is the busiest?" competition that we are good at.

Gordon Cheng said...

Like my friend Gordo, Chester's not keen on the idea of holidays.

Hey Jean, I better come clean and say that I love holidays, and am trying to work out the possibilities surrounding the next one.

My only hesitation is that I can't for the life of me work out how the Bible supports the idea of paid time off, but rather shows us people like Paul (and Jesus for that matter) who worked and worked, with seemingly no great regard for Sabbath days when something more important came up.

I don't think however that the Bible prohibits holidays, so my current view is to accept them with thankfulness as a gift from God, and try to make sure that I am not taking a holiday from godliness at the same time.

Jean said...

Ah, Gordo, the truth comes out ... :)

I was hoping to winkle your views on holidays out of you and now I have!!

And even Jesus took time to rest, didn't he? It seems to me (and I'm sure to you) that rest is a biblical principle - as is sleep - a sign that we trust that God is in control, and a reminder that we are human.

As for whether we should be paid or not while we're doing it, I'll leave that one for the social analysts. Personally, I'm very glad we are.

Jean said...

... although, of course, Jesus broke his rest to meet people's needs e.g. when he tried to escape the crowds and found them waiting. So rest isn't sacrosanct, but may be interrupted by people as part of God's design - in which case we receive them and serve cheerfully, trusting God for the rest we need.

Meredith said...

Glad to read a few of these comments. The post made for scary reading just as I find myself happily settling into school holidays!!

Jean said...

:) sorry to give you a shock, Meredith! Happy holidays!!

And thanks for your observations, Valori and Kath.

My mum wisely observed that it's true we need weekly rest - or even a week's holidays won't prove refreshing, because we'll be too exhausted to benefit from it! - but that it's good to have both.