Holiday. You’ll read that word a lot in the next several weeks. We know what the term means to many nowadays: time off from work, vacation, a chance to get last minute shopping done, parties, lots of food.
But what did it originally mean? Halig (Holy) daeg (day) was a Middle English word, first used in the 12th century. It marked special days set aside by the Church. General work was suspended in order to frame, consider, and celebrate “holiness”.
Holy days help us understand what holiness really is—and how we too can become holy. In the Christian world, every Sunday is considered a Holy Day—the Sabbath. And of course we have days like Easter and Christmas to remind us why we have a faith. Most believers will make some effort to get to church on these days at a minimum.
But if it’s just about Church attendance, we’re missing the point!
Do you see signs of holiness in yourself, and in those around you? My guess is that you’d know it if you saw it, or experienced it, even though you might not call it “holiness.” It’s found in love, and gentleness, and goodness, and sacrifice, and faith, and joyful humility. I’ve been blessed with many examples in my life, but I want to focus on an example from my seminary days which still stirs my heart.
For a couple of years, I lived next door to a beautiful Chinese family. Grandma Yen, the matriarch, was well into her 80’s when I first met her but still very much in love with Jesus. One day she knocked on my front door to ask a favor of me. Would I be willing to read her favorite Bible verses while she recorded me? I agreed, thinking Grandma Yen was wanting to practice her English, and quickly affirmed her desire to become more fluent. With a smile, she politely corrected me stating that it wasn’t about her English, it was about her spiritual life. As she explained it, because she didn’t have a strong command of the English language, the recordings would challenge her to “listen very much when God talks to me.”
Grandma Yen has been in Heaven for twenty-one years now, after a lifetime of listening very much to God’s words to her, and then following His directions. I think of her every time the Holidays Season rolls around. She will always serve as an example of holiness for me, and provides a clue for how we can all stay connected to the original meaning of the Holidays.
May we all listen “very much” to the words of God, cherish them, follow them…and help make this Holiday Season truly holy.