Recently I had the joy of sharing with several young married couples a few thoughts on how to make this holiday a holy day. The word holiday conjures up a variety of meanings and memories. In Europe, the word is used for the common American term “vacation.” Here in the U.S. the word is usually connected with family and food! It is interesting that the word holiday actually comes from the root word for holy day.
Most holiday celebrations are anything but holy. In fact, the very word holiday has become so secularized that we almost think of it as a non-Christian term. For God’s people every day is a holy day…or at least it should be.
Through the centuries certain days have been set aside by believers to reflect on the goodness of God. The Old Testament believers kept the Sabbath. New Testament Christians celebrate on Sunday, the first day of the week, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection. Israel observed seven specific “feasts” or holy days to commemorate what Jehovah had done for them.
In Nehemiah 8 a wonderful example is given for keeping a holiday holy. The secret is in realizing that it is not a mere religious routine done for people. “This day is holy unto the LORD your God” (vs. 9). I hope you will take the time to read it for yourself and then apply these wonderful principles:
- Spend time reading the Word of God. In verse 8 we learn that attention was given to the Scriptures. Gather your family! Open the Word of God. Holidays are only meaningful when we know the meaning. Take the time to read together the wonderful story of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that it is “the word of God and prayer” that sanctifies everything else (1 Timothy 4:5).
- Confess and forsake every sin. The first response of the people to God’s truth was sorrow for their sin (vs. 9). Our greatest responsibility is to keep our own hearts right with the Lord. Sin will disrupt the most beautiful holiday celebration! Satan loves to sneak in at such times. Guard against sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. There can be no holy day without holy people.
- Meditate on the goodness of God. It is of note that Nehemiah and the priests called on God’s people to stop their weeping and begin to rejoice (vs. 9). Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Great thoughts of sin will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace.” Make much of God’s grace and speak tenderly of Him. His holy presence makes the holidays what they were meant to be. Never forget that He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).
- Enjoy the Lord’s blessings with a grateful heart. The people are commanded to “Eat the fat, and drink the sweet” (vs. 10). This is counsel most of us can understand! The truth is that God has provided for us and desires for us to acknowledge His provision. Every holiday should be thanksgiving.
- Give to those in need. Immediately after the people are told to enjoy the supply they are instructed to share it with others: “and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared” (vs. 10). To truly have a holy day we must seek out those to whom the Lord would have us to minister. Holidays are not just for our ease. They are days to give and to bless others.
The passage concludes with these words, “neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (vs. 10). Choose to rejoice in the Lord this holiday! Seek to make this time of year a holy time and the Lord will make it a happy one.
Last week I had the privilege of hearing a dear friend tell of growing up on the mission field in Venezuela. On Christmas Eve everyone attended a special service in the local church from 7 p.m. to midnight. At midnight Christian families went home and gathered around a nativity scene. The children would take the baby and gently place Him in the manger signifying the truth that Christ had come. As she spoke I thought what a beautiful thing it is when Christian families celebrate holidays as holy days.
Build traditions with your family and use those traditions to emphasize truth that lasts long after the holiday is over. Christian celebration should be totally different from those who do not know the Lord Jesus. Our holiday should be a holy day.