As Ludovic, Leopold, Caroline and I waited outside Clandon station, seeing train after train cancelled, we realised that the snow had brought our transport system to a grinding halt. If you wanted to get somewhere fast, the Beast from the East was exceptionally irritating. We live in a very busy world, with timetables, meetings, and deadlines. For priests, there are always sermons to prepare, services to lead, people to visit, and then the daily grind of e-mails! We are all very busy. But the snow doesn’t care. It gently falls, indifferent to our busy lives, ignorant of the work we have to get done, and life, necessarily slows down. Snow forces us to stop.
The bible’s equivalent of a snow day is called Sabbath. Sabbath was a gift from God to his people, Israel, the gift of having one day in seven free from all labour. Israel had been in Egypt for hundreds of years. As time went on, the Israelites were made the slaves of the Egyptians. They were forced into back breaking labour making bricks, day after day, with no future, with no hope of rest, with no time even to worship God. Every day, the Hebrew slaves were told that the only worth they had was found in how many bricks they produced. In desperate exhaustion, they cried to God, and God heard them and freed them and gave them a the gift of rest. The message of the Sabbath day was much more than, ‘take care of yourself and have a day off’, it was a message from God which said ‘No human being can ever claim to own you, you are no longer a slave, you don’t have to work for a master who always asks for more, God has set you free and you are worth something because God loves you’.
We all tend to push ourselves and others to do more and more. But in God’s mind, there should always be at least one day a week when you stop. Time to rest, time to play, time to spend time with the people we love and to have time to remember God God who sets us free. Of course, children know this. Snow days don’t carry irritation for children. ‘I hate the snow because it means school is cancelled’, said no child, ever! Children are young enough, and carefree enough to rest and play, to enjoy what they have, and in their own way, give thanks to God.
Taking time off from the demands of life, switching the phone off and refusing to have a quick glance at the e-mails, reminds us that our worth doesn’t come from how hard we work, or how well we perform, or whether people approve of us. Our worth doesn’t come from the bricks we produce, our worth comes from being made by, and loved by God.
The Sabbath is a day when our work is finished, even if really, it isn’t. It is a day when all we have to do is enjoy what God has given to us. It is a day where we can do nothing and not feel guilty about it. Sabbath is a day when we remind ourselves that God has made us free. May we all find time this month to rest in God’s sabbath.