Spiritual Formation

January Sabbath: Embracing a Season of Rest and Renewal

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27 (NIV) by Captain Stephanie Pavlakis

Growing up and even still today, the beginning of January has always marked a season of joy and rest for me. As a child of Salvation Army officers, November and December belonged to the corps. Late nights counting kettles, extra services, early mornings, Saturdays at a toy warehouse. Our parents worked hard to create special holiday traditions for us, but we knew that Christmas was a busy season for them. We also knew that like all seasons, it would come to an end. Come December 25, our parents were ours again and everyone breathed a collective sigh of rest. Days were spent lounging in pajamas, moving from kitchen to couch and back again. Board games would pile up, television marathons were watched. Every so often, we would even venture outside to go sledding until we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes any more.

January holds a special place for us as a season of rest, fun and togetherness. It is a season of transition from one busy month to another. It is a Sabbath, marking the end of one year and the start of the next. Sabbath is equal parts about rest and trust. Typically, Sabbath marks a period of time in which we stop doing and instead focus on being with the Lord, with ourselves and with each other. In doing so, we are reminded that we are not so essential to the world that it stops spinning when we do. Sabbath is a regular dose of humility as we set aside our pride and busyness and trust that the Lord can take care of things while we rest.

Perhaps there is no better month for a season of Sabbath than January. It starts us in a place of rest so that we are prepared for what the rest of the year brings. We reorient ourselves by centering in the Lord and His presence. From the beginning of the year, we can start the practice and rhythm of Sabbath so that it becomes a weekly occurrence, not having to wait until the next January to rest. This new year, take a pause. Breathe deeply. Rest, refresh and be reminded that God is in control. 

Experiencing GOD:

  • How can you create time for rest this January?
  • Are there things you need to set aside or cut out?
  • Sabbath must include intentional time with the Lord, through Bible study, worship, prayer, being in creation, journaling, remembrance or other ways. How will you center your Sabbath around the Lord?
  • What would it look like for you to take a regular Sabbath?

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.

– Maya Angelou, “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”
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