By The Rev’d Preb Julian Ould
For many the month of August is the time for holidays, but why do we do this? Why do we happily look forward to taking ‘time out’ and what are we looking for? Well, for some this 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 sightseeing. Some like the traditional bucket and spade holiday by the seaside, and others prefer the comfort of a luxury hotel, good food and entertainment. And so the list could go on and with the exception perhaps of the desire to relax, most come back from their holidays, happy but needing a holiday to get over it; and even the relaxation 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 for the potential of reflection and a chance to focus, which is really where the concept of holiday came from. The term holiday originates from Holy Day and was an allowed break from the norm of life to worship, to give thanks and to reflect on a given saint’s day or festival of the Church. Holy Days were enjoyed, which may not have been the original intention, though I feel this is a Godly thing and not to be condemned. However, by such enjoyment of the masses whose faith varied greatly produced a realisation that people 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 and focus on what we are doing and reflect on how we are living our lives. 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 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 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 challenging, life itself is a very precious gift and indeed, if necessary, we 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 this 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.
As 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.