This Christmas my nuclear family began a new tradition: the advent wreath. With four candles each representing Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love (and sometimes a fifth for the Christ child), the Sundays leading up to Christmas are acknowledged and celebrated. This is not something I saw growing up. None of the various denominations I floated between had the advent wreath in their list of kept rituals. I have a cynical history with rituals in the church. I didn’t fit in at church and I was wary of its people – that extended to the weird things they did. Baptism was weird and worse it was public, in front of people – in front of people I didn’t trust. Worst of the worst, they said I should do it. And really there is no quicker route to digging my heels in the ground than for someone to tell me I need to do something. (“Or else? Hahahahahaha I’ll show you!”) Rightfully so, it wasn’t until I found personal meaning in baptism that I went through with it. As my now husband and I got closer to engagement I made the connection that a baptism was like a wedding. You don’t NEED a wedding to be married. And having a wedding doesn’t mean your marriage will be healthy and good. But from intimate elopements to grand 400+ events, it can be meaningful and lovely to share and celebrate your commitment with the world.
I decided I wanted to be baptized, in spite of my nauseating public anxiety. I was in college and so I searched my college town for a church I felt connection with. It took a few months (and dodging several voice mails from the local megachurch), but I found it. It was aging and small. The sanctuary was beautiful with its dark wood and stained glass. No more than 25 people filled the pews on Sunday. Every week they served free spaghetti on paper plates to broke college students and young families in the yellowed basement with flickering lights. The preacher was young and black. He took me out to coffee and we talked faith and square pegs in round holes. I still doubted church people too much to feel at home, but I didn’t feel uneasy within those walls and it was an improvement I was eager to grab hold of. I was incredibly nervous that day. As I stood in the back room I physically held my legs to try and stop them from shaking but my white robes fluttered for the entire fifteen minutes I waited for my turn in the tub.
I went home for winter break and when I returned the megachurch had bought the building for secondary use.
Despite one parent rocking a fussy babe and the other preventing a toddler from touching the flickering candles, lighting the wreath and sharing verses became my favorite part of the Christmas season. It felt weird and sacred and just right. It is these very same reasons that we have decided in the new year we will begin honoring the Sabbath.
Christianity and Judaism have differing views on the Sabbath, or Shabbat. I find myself falling in the grey area between the two and that’s alright with me. I’ve read about the Lord’s Day superseding the Sabbath, and Sunday versus Saturday. Honestly? I’m not touching any of that with a ten foot pole. I believe we should do what draws us in to goodness and stay away from what pulls us from it – that is going to be intimately different for each one of us. If you want your Sabbath to be every Tuesday except when Thursdays fall on the 14th day of the month then good grief you knock yourself out, ok? Shalom. There’s something to be said for doing the “wrong” thing for the right reasons. Jesus was a bit subversive regarding the Sabbath and I like his style. Not everyone will agree or understand this – that is ok. They aren’t necessarily wrong, either, if what soothes me chafes them. I’m searching within different denominations and faiths to find what resonates with my heart. It’s not about self righteousness, but about intentionally seeking out God, finding Him in the nooks and crannies of my life, and bringing it out into the sunlight.
For us, for right now, that means Sabbath and Saturday. Sabbath is meant to be a day free from burden. Truth time: going to church is a burden. It is something I wholeheartedly want to do of my own volition and it is HARD WORK getting little arms and legs dressed and out the door before the last hymn is sung. Spending the rest of the day without housework or cooking would be a hugely stressful shot in the foot of my Monday. This is not a recipe for having praises of the Lord or my husband or my children on my lips. But Saturday? Yeah, we can do Saturday.
It was a great joy and privilege spending time reading about Shabbat and how Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Atheistic alike find and cultivate rest. What does Sabbath look like and what does it not? This is my Sabbath. No work, no shopping, minimal technology, minimal cooking. Family, friends, rest, joy. It looks like fresh flowers and warm bread – fairly universal symbols of life, joy, comfort, peace. It looks like four lit candles – three for each family member and a fourth for every small body who has been with us in differing degrees and reasons of temporary. It looks like letting the dishes and laundry lie and trying to pretend I don’t care. It looks like praising God for it all.
Friends, what is your Sabbath? What does your holy taste like? What feels sacred? No matter what doors you do or don’t or never walk into on Sunday morning there is Sabbath for you. It will probably look a little different than mine. And God, isn’t that beautiful? Weave yourself into the tapestry.