Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore the importance of holidays and rest and how to use them well.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and a reader.
- Gather some large – preferably poster-sized – pictures of holiday destinations or a selection of holiday brochures.
- Also, a Bible and other religious texts, to explore ideas about dreams, rest and reality. These could be books or you could use the CD-ROM Great Works of Literature, which contains a Bible, Qur'an, Life of Buddha and many other relevant texts.
- Choose a pop song about holidays or a restful classical or meditative piece of music and have the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Leader Hold up the large pictures or brochures of holiday destinations.
It is the end of a long term. Do you dream of the holidays? What would your dream holiday be?
For many people, dreams and holidays are escapes – escapes from the 'real' world – but resting and dreaming are much more important than just escaping.
Reader In the Jewish and Christian traditions, after God created the world, he had a rest (Genesis 2.2, NIV): ‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.’
Leader Why would God need to rest?
Pause for thought.
Presumably it was not to escape. Mind you, he deserved a rest, don't you think, after creating the whole world and all the things in it? The Bible says that God thought the rest day was really special, not because he did nothing, but because he'd worked so hard before that day.
Reader ‘And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done’ (Genesis 2.3, NIV).
Leader So God is said to have rested. What do you think he might have done? Think about all that work? Contemplate life, the universe and everything? Look to the future?
Many believers refuse to do 'everyday' work on the day of rest. This is not because they are lazy, but because they feel they should do something else. They set aside the day of rest for thinking about what they have done, thinking about what they are going to do and thinking about the whole world – including God. In fact, the word 'holiday' comes from this idea. It's a variation of 'holy day' – a day for prayer and contemplation, a day for rest.
When we're busy, working hard, as we are in school every day (pause for a smile if you like!), we sometimes forget about what is important. That's not surprising, especially when you remember that even God is said to have needed a day to sit back and think about what he had done.
Resting isn't necessarily an escape, but a time to think. Anyway, some people 'escape' into work. They avoid important things by rushing around all the time. If they do rush around, not realizing what they are doing, then they are trapped in work. The Dutch Jewish philosopher Spinoza, says that such people – who think they are choosing what they do – never think about the most important things in life. In fact they:
Reader ‘. . . do but dream with their eyes open' (Spinoza, Ethics: Part III, Proposition II).
Leader So we can 'dream' that we are doing important work, but it is only when we rest and think about what we have done that we realize whether it really is important or not. It's only when we're resting that we know if we've been kidding ourselves – dreaming – all the time we were rushing around.
Let your holiday be a good time for resting, reflection and getting in touch with 'reality'.
Time for reflection
During a time of quiet, think about what you have 'created', what you have done, in recent days and weeks. Which of those things are really important to you? Which things were just examples of 'dreaming with your eyes open'?
Spend some time being pleased about the 'real' – the really important – things you have done recently. You need a holiday, a holy day, a time of rest, to do this. Then you will be ready for the future.
Starting from students' own holiday and 'rest day' experiences, find out what is most important about holidays and what they tell us about who we really are. There is a storybook for young children called Jesus' Day Off by Nicholas Allan (Red Fox, 2002). Just as mention is made in Old Testament sources of God's 'day of rest', what do the students think Jesus might like to do on a day off?
Work on plans for 'ideal' rest and holidays. Work out what we will do that does not involve rushing around 'creating' things or working hard, but, instead, involves taking stock of what we've done, what we want to do and how we fit into the whole world and – for those with faith – into God's world.
The assembly is based on material from Jewish and Christian sources. Examine some relevant texts from other world faiths. For example:
– Buddha's statement that 'Ye that are slaves of the self and toil in its service from morn until night' (Buddha, His Life and Teachings, Great Works of Literature edition, p. 73).
– from the Qur'an, Sura 7.54 'He settled himself on the throne', which doesn’t necessarily imply that Allah rested at the end of creation.
What do these texts contribute to our view of the nature and purpose of work and rest? What do the students themselves believe?