November 18, 2013
If you know anything about Dr. Scott Hahn, you know he is all about covenants. I believe I heard him say in one of his recorded talks that scripture really came alive for him when he realized that there is a theme of God covenanting Himself to us in ever more far-reaching ways throughout the story of salvation. No doubt many other scripture scholars have cottoned on to this idea of covenant, but Dr. Hahn was the first I heard explain the scriptures in this way. It had a big impact on my understanding of the salvation narrative and it deepened my love for reading the Old Testament.

Here is something interesting: of the six covenants, the first one, the very first, is symbolized by the Sabbath – the seventh day – the day of rest.

I was reminded of this in The Great Adventure bible study by Jeff Cavins. In one of the lessons he points out the connection between the Hebrew sheva (seven), shaba (to swear an oath), and Shabbat (Sabbath). I can't open scripture to you the way Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins can, but the gist of it is this: God covenanted Himself to us, or 'sevened' Himself to us, and the Sabbath, the seventh day, is the sign of that covenant.

The covenant of the Sabbath establishes family, its role and purpose – that it will be fruitful, and will people the earth. (There are promises and consequences involved in each covenant, but I'll leave the explaining of those to the experts.)

So not only is the Sabbath a day of rest, it is meant to be a reminder that God covenanted Himself to the family. He did not forsake us or abandon us, but draws us into ever deeper relationship with Himself.

The day is significant enough that it gets a commandment – the third: Keep holy the Sabbath Day. Not only does God in His love and wisdom know we need a day of rest, but He is also reminding us that we have been set free. Free from slavery in Egypt (Deut. 5:15), and free from death (through the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.)

There are several reasons the Sabbath observance is important in Christian life:

  • Obedience. God has asked it of us.
  • Corporate worship as the body of Christ.
  • Rest, which is necessary for mental and spiritual well-being.
  • It's about family, like the first covenant reminds us.
  • Tithe of time. It is good to give the best portion of time back to God.

I know how difficult it is to 'keep holy the Sabbath' so I'm not about to 'should' you about it. We live in a crazy, frenetic world with ever more and more demands on our time, not to mention that some have an economic need to work on Sunday. Instead, I'd like to share about my neighours, in whom I see an example of faithful observance of the Lord's Day.

This is an elderly couple, very upright and devout. They go to Church in their Sunday best (he is always in a suit and tie, even in the heat of summer, with his hair slicked in place.) They make sure that on Saturday they have what they need for Sunday – supplies for the family meal, pressed clothing, cleaned shoes, etc. In that alone, they are already placing a great deal of importance on the day. Every Sunday they get together with family - children and grandchildren - rotating homes each week. They always visit, even if only for a few minutes. Meals are taken at home; they don't eat out, they don't pick up milk, they don't go for coffee. They're 'voting with their dollar' by not spending it in the marketplace, which sends an economic message of their position on Sunday openings. (By the way, I just heard that Tim Hortons and McDonald's are going to be open Christmas Day this year. Doesn't that send a ray of warmth to your heart?) Sunday in their home truly is a day set apart, unlike the others. The effort it takes to do so is difficult at times, I'm sure, but the result is focus on the purpose of the day - keeping it holy.

Again, let me say I am not 'shoulding' you. Whether any of us is properly honouring the Third Commandment is a personal matter to be brought to God, not for us to impose on one another. I wanted to share these thoughts because Advent is approaching. We often bemoan the over-commercialization of 'the holiday season', which seems to begin earlier and earlier every year. (Weeks ago already, I heard a commercial on the radio reassuring me there was 'still time to' buy something or other for Christmas. What a relief, because surely the celebration of my Saviour's birth would be utterly ruined if I hadn't bought whatever it was by the first of November. Sheesh.)

Here's an idea: what if, for the four weeks of Advent, we make a concerted effort to stay out of shops and restaurants and gas stations and theatres on Sunday. For one day out of the whole week we don't spend money, we don't participate in someone else having to be at work. For four weeks, we sacrifice a little to be prepared to keep the Sabbath day holy. It might be a good way to help us prepare to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts and homes on Christmas Day.

I was reminded by The Great Adventure bible study how very beautiful and meaningful the Seventh Day is. As Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for man...” (Mark 2;27). I think sometimes we overlook the gift we've been given.



  1. I want to thank you for this lovely post. Celebrating the Sabbath was rather foreign to me until I started university. I mean, growing up we went to Mass on Sundays, but we often went shopping, either for recreation (!) or out of necessity for things we didn't have, and we always always did our homework on Sunday.

    I actually hated school for most of my life so I was among the far-too-large crowd of people who detested Monday and the return to work (or for me, school). But sadly, I hated Sunday too, because I spent much of the day wallowing that my weekend was ending, that I had to do my homework, and so on.

    When I went to a Catholic university, Sunday was celebrated so uniquely, and I found myself being captivated by it -- a lovely brunch after Mass together, often a hike or outdoor activity, and time to read, reflect and so on. I've now carried it into my marriage and family life.

    Just the other day I was thinking, "I don't hate Mondays anymore!" Even though my husband goes back to work and I'm back to solo-parenting very little people. I am certain it's because we've made some choices to make Sunday more restful.

  2. Such an important post, and what a wonderful suggestion! Try it out everyone, starting with the first Sunday of Advent, and you'll see it is possible, and you can continue every Sunday after that! We try very very hard to not shop or do any extra housework on Sundays, it is so important to just sit and be with family and Him for that one entire day. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Thanks for writing, Mo.
      Can you believe the First Sunday of Advent is just around the corner?
      I'm going to try it this year. I'm sure it will take some unaccustomed planning and sacrifice, but I think it's something I need to do.
      Here's to sitting and being!



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