Vacation or Holiday?

By Ward Shope

How was your vacation this year? It seems a bit late to be writing this the week before Labor Day. For most children school has begun, the fall schedule is asserting itself and our summer vacation is a fading memory. For some, vacation rivaled the busyness of any work week. We come panting back from vacation to our vocations. For others, we caught our breath and are ready to dig in. Personally, I could have used another week, but I’m ready.

“Vacation” originated in the late middle ages when people – rich people – would “vacate” their houses in the hot season for a more tranquil and cool setting in the country. Since the wealthy class didn’t usually work a lot anyway, vacating is what they were doing. It was leisurely, but so were many other things in their lives.

“Holiday”, on the other hand, comes from the term “holy days.” To this day, the British and movies like Chicken Run tend to talk about “going on holiday”, though they’ve “vacated” much of its meaning. “Holy days” were set aside to remember godly men and women and the redemptive acts of God in history. Labor was put away and sometimes worship and joyful feasting ensued.

I once counted all the days God commanded the Israelites to take off each year to remember what He had done. It outdoes most vacation benefit packages today. Not only did Israelite families appear before the Lord for those holy weeks, which remembered how God saved them from slavery in Egypt and preserved them in the desert, but they also sacrificed and feasted together. Few Labor Day roasts could compare with the abundance of food intended for these times. These weeks were enveloped by days of travel to the specific place where God had appointed them to meet with Him. It wasn’t the Grand Canyon, but there was no more anticipated journey for the faithful.

The temple is no longer here. Jesus is the priest, the sacrifice, the redeemer, the preserver of all who believe. Because of the Spirit He’s given us, we are in His presence every day. We don’t need to go anywhere really to feast and remember. And yet, somehow, I want my vacation to be a holiday: time away to meet and feast in the presence of the Lord, remembering his works of redemption and anticipating the final feast with the Lamb.