2012-10-19 – Christmas is the truest Sabbath I know.
I say this because I took a vacation day because I need the rest. I haven’t taken many this year and I stand to lose them on January 1. So I’m taking Fridays – like the Muslims, I guess. But it’s really ecumenical because I regularly take Saturday (like the Jews) and Sunday (like the Christians). But none of them are truly Sabbaths. Because I don’t rest.
And I won’t really rest today.
I knew this when I looked out the window this morning. We live across the street from a school. So the scene out my window was the normal bustle of children arriving for a regular school day. I knew this when I checked my email. I knew this when I talked to a business contact yesterday who urgently needed to arrange a flight to meet me in La Crosse next week where I will be on business. I told him to call me today at home.
A Sabbath isn’t like this.
Even during my religious years I didn’t have many true Sabbaths. My parents made nice Sabbath dinners for us, but we would drive, rushing to the synagogue. My grandparents made nice Sabbath lunches for us but they were a little distant from us, so there was no lingering at the table in warm fellowship. In college and lawschool, I had a few chances to experience a true Sabbath meal, but I was rarely able to recapture the feeling.
Except at Christmas.
Yeah, I do the big feast thing at Passover and Thanksgiving. But Passover is rushed by the ceremony and the usual need for guests to go home early because they work or have school the next day. The Thanksgiving magic is broken when you discover you’re missing an onion and you run to the store and encounter thousands of others looking for onions or beer and chips and salsa. It’s a football day, remember.
Of course, even Christmas isn’t Sabbath the whole day.
The gift-giving kinda ruins the morning for me. People talk about the smiles of little children. I don’t call them smiles. I call them leers. But once the litter of Christmas wrapping is cleaned up, I feel that I have a few hours, at least, to relax and be with my family. And when I look outside my window, there is peace.
We don’t know how to rest and relax. I don’t anyway. I try to take a moment here and there. For me they are mostly transitional and lonely.
I have my morning walk through the park. Even on a snowy day. Especially on a snowy day. Because at 5:30 AM, I am usually the first one out and my footprints are often the first in the snow. And for two blocks I am away from the streets and the traffic.
I have my train ride home from work. I get to the train early so I can decompress from the day and read a little. I’m alone when I get there, but I’m far from alone before long. Still, it’s a little quiet time. A half-hour Sabbath.
This summer, my wife Kit and I began to take long walks together several times a week. By long, I mean five to 10 miles. These were Sabbaths and not so lonely. Life has overtaken us and we haven’t been doing these for the last couple of weeks and I miss them. Maybe today or maybe tomorrow. If not, it will have to wait until I return from La Crosse.