I’m an amateur word nerd.*  So when I see the world “holiday” I can’t help but remember that it came into our language from the phrase “holy day”.

Because, of course, it used to be on the holy days observed by the church that the people were released from their work duties. You can still see this in our own calendars: Sunday is the day we weekly remember the resurrection, and many of us still have it off. Christmas vacation is rooted in the remembrance of Jesus’ birth, and spring break in the celebration of the events of Easter.

Thinking “holy day” when I see “holiday” is a pedantic bit of geekery, I admit it. At least, it is on the surface. But when I look deeper, it gives me a hint about what really makes for a restful holiday or a good vacation.

“I need to get away” – from what? 

We talk about “needing to get away”, and I, for one, certainly do feel like I am escaping when I’m lucky enough to leave the city for the mountains, or my everyday life for a week of kicking back.

But what is it that we really need to get away from? It’s not like everyday life is a horror, for most of us. Our days are busy, sure, but for many of us, they’re filled with good things, with everyday duties like working and housekeeping, caring for kids and feeding ourselves and our families.

It makes me think that maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, “what do I need to get away from?”, I ought to be asking, “what do I need to run towards?”

Sabbath Rest

Work is good, but no one should be always working. It is rest that we are running towards. Resting after labor is so important that it was God himself who set us the example of how to do it.

And rest is not an emptiness, rest is a fullness. It is rest in the presence of God. It is being with, not being without. Even in seemingly run-of-the-mill vacation activities – things like swimming in the ocean or games of catch or long walks on a mountain trail – you can hear echoes of the Edenic rest our first parents enjoyed. In Eden, Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening. In our vacations today, we still take great joy in being somewhere beautiful in the company of those we love.

And even for introverts like me, when I am alone, I am not alone. The urge for silence and solitude is, really, an urge to be alone with God. To be still in His presence.

This is rest.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell 



* Amateur because the professionals are the ones who have etymological dictionaries. I make due with my precious hardbound edition of the shorter OED.

Originally posted 2012-07-13 10:00:00.

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