How might we reflect "carefully" on how we intend to spend our 'holidays' this year. I understand that readers from different cultures use words such as 'holiday', 'vacation' and 'recreation leave' in various ways.
In Australia, 'holiday' is a generic term that encompasses what the Americans call a 'vacation' and what others may call 'recreation leave'; although I know from talking to friends that traditionally Americans reserve the word 'holidays' for the period between Thanksgiving in late November and New Year.
This American usage is akin to the original Biblical term 'Holy Days'; one that observant Jews still use for religious festivals when normal routine work is forbidden. I was interested to read about the origin of some Jewish Holy Days in Leviticus (particularly ch 23-25). For example, the idea of a 'Sabbatical Year' is detailed in Leviticus 25:2-7.
He also found summaries of the history of the main Christian and Jewish holidays in: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holiday; and www.bible.ca.
These various words used in different places, for a describing a break from normal work, have slightly different roots. 'Vacation' comes from the Latin vacare, "to be free, empty; to be at leisure." Around 1395, this term entered Old English, meaning "rest and freedom from any activity." This is the same etymology as the word we use in everyday language: 'to vacate' 'to make empty'.
And then there are the military terms R&R (Rest and Recreation) and the business term 'Recreation Leave', which both refer to the process of being 're-created' or regenerated in one's body and soul, by taking rest after some strenuous physical or mental activity. This is what I hope will happen this year, when you go on your own 'holiday' or 'vacation' or 'recreation leave'.
As mentioned in previous recent articles Handmade Gifts, and Christmas and families, the main summer holiday period in Australia is preceded by an extremely busy time with end-of-year celebrations, children's concerts, students' exams, sporting preparations and the build-up to Christmas.
This culminates in many households with a hot Christmas dinner which is part of the English tradition of the 'family Sunday roast dinner', albeit with special festival foods such as the turkey (formerly in England a goose) and pork or ham; and of course the dessert of Christmas Pudding with loads of preserved fruits and spices (originally the autumn harvest, preserved for the winter in Medieval times).
And yet others prefer just to stay at home and rest.
Biblical references to all this
The first mention of 'rest and recreation' in the Bible is Genesis, where it is written that God worked for six days and then took the seventh day 'off' for rest. Many other times in the Bible, it is mandated that people do the same, for example: Exodus 34:21 ESV "Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest."
There are other Biblical references, too, exhorting people to take their required period of 'recreation'. In Psalm 150:1-6, we are given instructions to praise the Lord during this relaxation time.
The Biblical story that I want to refer to is the account of the Apostle Paul's Second Missionary Journey described in Acts 16: 6-10. With my knowledge of the geography and customs of the Middle East at that time, I concur with other Biblical scholars who see that during this trip, the party took a break after a long period of strenuous travel which involved much preaching to individual churches and communities.
Instead of heading directly west towards Greece, verse 8 says they passed by Mysia and came down to Troas. This was the Gold Coast of the ancient world. The wealthy people had homes there. The great circuses were there. The hot baths were in Troas. There was something for everyone to enjoy.
This diversion was a much-needed break in an arduous routine, which had been recently fraught with some arguments and tenseness. Verses 9-10 tell us what happened while they were in Troas. A vision came to Paul in the night to head across the Aegean into Macedonia (Europe) and to preach the Gospel. Paul discussed this with his companions, they confirmed the vision and for the very first time, the Gospel was taken from Ancient Asia (what we now know as Syria and Turkey) into Europe.
An historical time line can be defined, which follows the geographical spread of the Gospel; from Macedonia to Rome, to Gaul, to Germany, to Scandinavia, to England and from there to the four corners of the world and thence even to Australia with the First Fleet.
Changed the world as we know it
In summary, this was a little side-adventure, a 'holiday', a 'vacation', taken during a very busy 'business trip', that led to 'recreation' and meditation seeking wisdom from the Lord, which changed the face of history and led to the world as we know it.
Whether you plan to take an adventurous holiday during this Holy period of Christmas, or whether you will just enjoy simple traditional pleasures at home with your family and friends, or whether you take the time to pray and spend time with the Lord for some guidance as to your journey in the coming year, your holiday this year may be the most adventurous thing that you do.
I exhorts the reader to take your Bible with you wherever you go, and moreover that you dare to read it. It might change your world it might be the metaphorical 'place' where the Lord speaks into your heart.
Enjoy planning your holiday.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html