Celebration Sabbath!

My childhood friend Nancy was forbidden to participate in a number of activities on Sunday because her parents felt that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath, purposed for focusing on God. Recently, I read a similar comment about not participating in anything on Sunday that isn't centered on Christ, including family activities. I love the zeal and heartfelt desire to please God that these restrictions represent, but I wonder–isn’t there something in this perspective that misses God’s heart for people?

On the other hand, in fleeing from legalism have the rest of us lost the benefits of the sabbath commands? Do we miss any focus on Christ in the midst of family fun? Has the pendulum swung too far when we determine that sabbath is Law, without any merit to Christ-followers? Is there something positive in its practice that many of us are missing?

I would answer all the above questions with “yes.” If so, what does sabbath look like when it’s not a legal obligation but a blessing?

Jesus declared in Mark 2:27 that God made sabbath for people. That means that He intended it as a blessing, not a burden. I fear that it can border on bondage when we refuse to participate in family celebrations. Sabbath is a family feast day for the Jews, a wonderful time to enjoy good food and good fellowship with those whom they love. Celebrating the blessings of family and creation should be benefits of the sabbath, not restrictions. Somewhere along the way, well-meaning Christians prohibited anything fun on Sunday, believing that pleases God. Instead of enjoying a day without work, it became a day without joy.
When our Sundays look like every other day, we lose something. It is to our benefit to take a day off, refraining from work-related activities. Is Sunday a day of stress that wears your family out instead of refreshing you? Practicing sabbath is renewing. It helps driven people release the burden of work by trusting that God, our Provider, will supply. Weekly time for worship heightens our focus on His character and greatness, which builds our faith and helps us live in a broken world. Shouldn’t Sunday look a bit different when we love and worship the Creator who rested on the seventh day? Would our neighbors notice that we have a different perspective of life because of our Sundays?
There is no cookie-cutter list of how to celebrate a freedom-giving sabbath. What is work for you may be a blessing for me. Something in our brokenness likes rules; it’s easier to make a list and follow it. It’s straightforward to say that all activities must focus on God. But I would counter that by saying that enjoying rest, fellowship, and even fun involves celebrating God’s goodness. Instead of detracting from our God-focus, such activities can enhance our worship of the One who gives good gifts (James 1:17).
Let’s live in freedom from the Law and yet enjoy the refreshment of practicing sabbath!
(For a theological discussion of our relationship to the Jewish sabbath, search the topic on www.bible.org.)

Kay is a life-long Texan whose favorites are Tex-Mex, books that feed her soul or make her think, good movies and travel to new places. Her great joy is to serve God by teaching the Bible and developing women as servant-leaders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries, which provides free videos, podcasts and articles as well as low-cost Bible studies to prepare Christian women for leadership. (beyondordinarywomen.org) Kay spent ten years leading women’s ministries on church staffs, most recently at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Kay is the author of From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow your Influence, a practical guide to help Christian women influence others by applying foundational leadership skills to their lives and ministries, and a number of Bible studies for women, some are available at bible.org and the newer ones are found at beyondordinarywomen.org. Kay earned an M.A.C.E. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Effective Ministries to Women. Kay’s family includes a husband, two grown children, one son-in-law, two hysterical granddaughters and a Goldendoodle.


  • Sue Bohlin

    The Sabbath as an invitation to have FUN!

    Thanks for this, Kay. So, so true! It was freeing to me, some years ago, to be introduced to the idea of a Sabbath rest as God's gift, offered as a blessing and not a burden. My most memorable Sabbath was our first no-kid Christmas. We took that holiday as a Sabbath, asking ourselves, "What do I really want to do?" and giving ourselves permission to not do anything we didn't want to do. So. . . we didn't shower, for one thing. I set up a card table in the living room and watched a video someone had lent me several years before but I never had time to watch, while I created several years' worth of handmade greeting cards. And then, when the video was over, I watched it all over again in the commentary mode–because that's what I wanted to do. 

    Ray decided what he really wanted to do was plant the flowers he had bought for me some weeks before. He brought a chair out for me so I could sit and watch him love me through his act of service, my love language, and so we could chat while he worked. 

    And what we really wanted to do for dinner was grill filets (another reason to love living in Texas!) So we did. 

    It was not only the most tank-filling, battery-charging Christmas we'd ever had, it was the most fun Sabbath day we'd ever experienced. And all day, we basked in the Father's enjoyment of His gift to us. 

  • Kay Daigle

    What a Great Christmas!

    Such a fun sabbath! I will remember this when the day comes that we have no family at home on Christmas. Just do what we want to do:) Love it!