By The Rev’d Preb Julian Ould
Whilst many of you will have had your holidays, in spite of the restrictions, possibly taking a ‘staycation’ rather than venturing overseas, I am still looking forward to some time away at the end of the month and so this is very much in my thoughts at the moment.
We take holidays for a variety of reasons. For some, it is about finding warmth and sunshine with a chance to relax and recharge the batteries. For others, it is about visiting places of interest and exploring new avenues, of walking and sight seeing. Some prefer the traditional bucket and spade holiday by the seaside, and others like the comfort of a luxury hotel, good food and entertainment. And so the list could go on. Most of us come back from our holidays, happy but needing a holiday to get over it! And even the most relaxing holiday usually involves actively having a good time. So, do we holiday to rest or are we seeking something else?
To be honest a holiday is more about stepping back from the norm of life and, whether it is active or not, allows potential to reflect and the chance to focus, which is really where the concept of holiday came from.
The term holiday originates from Holy Day, an allowed break from the norm of life to worship, to give thanks and to reflect on a given saints day or festival of the Church. Holy Days were enjoyed: maybe not the original intention, though I feel this is a Godly thing and not to be condemned. Such enjoyment by people whose faith varied greatly produced a realisation that everyone returned to their normal pattern of life with a much better spirit and even with batteries recharged.
Holidays today seem very far removed from the origin of Holy Days, but nevertheless do produce the same opportunities and I believe it is important for us all to pause, to focus on what we are doing, and to reflect on how we are living our lives. Particularly in this uncertain time of pandemic. For most this will be to accept our lot and hopefully be content with it. For others it might bring about life-changing decisions. But in all cases it will enable us to identify the joy and wonder of life with all its challenges and ups and downs.
Sometimes we take life for granted and, to be honest, it is far too precious to us to allow it to be frittered away like this.
The main thrust of Jesus’ teaching was about realising the kingdom of heaven on earth, which was not about keeping God happy, but about finding a fulfilment in life that made us happy; the kingdom becoming a reality, within us and around us, when all had come to share this.
It sounds a bit way out and remote, but in taking time to reflect and focus, in taking a Holy Day, we can acknowledge how good it is to be alive. We can see that whilst things sometimes do look hard and difficult, life itself is a very precious gift, and, if necessary, we can make life-changing decisions to find this desired fulfilment. Jesus’ teaching for this was to love God and one another, the latter part being the ultimate challenge, but the key to fulfilment. For once we have learnt to love one another, there is a real chance of grasping how to love God and all that he has given us.
So when we take our holidays, may we make time to focus and reflect on the goodness of life. May we see that it is good to be alive and in looking to the teachings of Christ seek to play our part in bringing fulfilment and happiness, not just to ourselves, but to one another.