During Advent, we need to remember God wants us to rest.

All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer. ~ Is 56:6-7

The Sabbath. In Hebrew, it literally means a stop, a pause, a cessation of activity. To insist on Sabbath observance, as the Lord does in today’s reading from Isaiah, is to issue a cease and desist order, or as Psalm 46 expresses the divine command: “Be still, and know that I am God.” 


How hard it is for us to be still. Not long ago, interviewing students for a post-graduate fellowship, I asked a very accomplished college senior what his least favorite sound was; he paused for a moment, and answered, “The sound of silence.” All of us have a vested interest in keeping the volume of our lives on high. The prospect of silence scares us. What might we hear? Safer to rush along to the buzz and hum and ping of our technology-dominated lives, stiff-arming the need to pause and to reflect on what it all means. What, though, if we constructed a boundary between our time and God’s, and made time stop?

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The joyful house of prayer which God promises us may not be for us a physical place (although we may certainly find God’s presence on a hillside, by the shore, or in a chapel). No, the Sabbath encounter may take place in a temple of time: it is an intentional withdrawal of our souls and bodies from the onward rush of the world to reflect on God’s purpose for us, to appeal for direction or for mercy, to express gratitude for blessings large and small, and to experience the abiding joy of God’s dwelling within our hearts. “Be still, and know that I am God.”

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016

Lord of the sabbath, Grant me the strength to stop the perpetual motion of my life, and to pause every day for recollection and reflection in your presence. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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