Sometimes in our busy lives we come crashing into the Sabbath day as if it snuck up on us unexpectedly. How can we keep the Sabbath day holy and make it special for our families?
As members of God's Church, we are all eagerly awaiting the coming Kingdom of God. In our daily lives, we are preparing mentally and spiritually for that great day when Christ will return and set up a government of peace without end.
Each week, we have the opportunity to model that coming Kingdom by observing the Sabbath rest. However, in our busy lives, we occasionally discover that preparing for the Sabbath sometimes gets left off of our busy agendas. Of course, the seventh day arrives predictably every single week. But sometimes we come crashing into the Sabbath day as if it snuck up on us unexpectedly.
This phenomenon has been compared to driving into an intersection when the light has turned yellow and suddenly turns red when we are halfway through. Although we knew it would turn red, instead of slowing down in preparation we careen into the intersection—and sometimes beyond—hoping that the ramifications won't be significant.
But with our busy, stressful lives, how do we prepare for the Sabbath to make it a special, enjoyable and peaceful rejuvenation for our families and ourselves—without straining our physical resources and taxing our over-extended schedules?
The Preparation Day
The day prior to the Sabbath is known as the Preparation Day. Many of us work on that day, so preparing for the Sabbath can seem like a daunting task if we leave all preparation to that one 24-hour period. The solution is to begin preparation for the Sabbath throughout the week and allow those preparations to culminate prior to the beginning of the Sabbath.
The brethren of the United Church of God in Los Angeles, California, have contributed ideas that are simple and inexpensive yet profound in the impact they can have upon the Sabbath day.
For working adults, the Crock-Pot, or slow cooker, can become your best friend. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and capabilities and can be used for numerous recipes—from roasts and casseroles, soups and stews, to breads and cakes. Longer cooking times at slower temperatures also allow you to use less expensive cuts of meat. And from personal experience, nothing beats walking in the door in the evening and smelling an already cooked dinner—without any extra effort needed.
Many ovens and microwaves also come with a "delayed start" feature that allows you to put your frozen meal into the oven and have it begin cooking at a time later in the day while you are not there. This allows for more time to spend enjoying your family and friends or just relaxing as the sun begins to set.
Salads, breads and other side dishes can also be prepared the night before or in the morning. Additionally, you can set the table prior to leaving for work in the morning—leaving one less last-minute task to complete prior to enjoying your evening meal.
Involve the Family
When children become old enough, they can become an integral part of preparing for the Friday evening meal. Early in the week, older teens can be given a budget and asked to plan for the Friday evening dinner. Taking them shopping and allowing them to see what different food items cost helps them understand the family budget and prepare for the time when they will make these decisions themselves. It also helps them understand what is involved in preparing for the Sabbath. Let them prepare and serve the meal and become more involved in the Sabbath preparation process.
Younger children can be taught service at the dinner table. Sharing the set up and clean up, helping fill water glasses and being aware of the needs of family members and dinner guests helps them understand service towards others.
Children also can be very creative when asked to help prepare a special centerpiece to decorate the family table. Colorful leaves in the fall, a freshly cut flower in the summer, or a specially created piece of individual artwork displayed on the table adds a wonderful touch without added expense.
Many families enjoy lighting candles at the dinner table, utilizing their best crystal and china and taking turns asking the prayer. Whatever you do to begin this special Sabbath experience, enjoying sitting down with your family—whether it is your spiritual or physical family—heightens the joy of the Sabbath day as it begins.
Preparing for Sabbath Services
The best day to prepare for what your family will wear on the Sabbath is probably on Sunday! That is a good day to make sure that the clothes worn to Sabbath services are washed or gathered to go to the dry cleaners. Having all your clothing cleaned prior to the end of the week helps to eliminate that last-minute worry of what to wear. Your family's clothing can be cleaned and ironed early in the week to diminish any need for last-minute work.
Keeping children quiet during services can be difficult. One family suggests having a special bag of toys that are only for the Sabbath. These items can be seen as a very special treat to only be enjoyed on a very special day. This heightens the awareness of how special the Sabbath is.
Very few children can "enjoy" sitting still and listening to a sermon message for a long period of time. Helping children grow into the ability of understanding and appreciating the messages they hear is an art that takes time and individual attention.
It is a learning process for both parent and child, and no one can compare his or her child's abilities and maturity level with those of another child. Having special, cleaned clothing, treats, toys and books on the Sabbath day really drives home the message that this day is very special.
Make sure you know where your church Bibles and notebooks are so you don't have a last-minute search. Children can help by making sure they know where their Sabbath bags are kept and have the responsibility to make sure that pencils are sharpened and crayons are ready to go.
Fill the car with gasoline on Friday or Thursday. No need to panic as you drive for church services!
Know ahead of time what you will be doing for meals after services. Hungry children become cranky easily (come to think of it, hungry adults do too!). Having a plan makes it easier and less stressful on everyone.
Preparing the Home
There are many things that we can do to prepare our homes for the Sabbath day. Primarily, making sure that it is clean and orderly helps a busy person relax. When you can look around your home without seeing things left undone, it is so much easier to enjoy the Sabbath day. Here are a few tips to set the mood for the Sabbath that are simple, yet very effective:
Don't wait until Friday to start preparation and cleaning. Begin the process early in the week and do a little each day so that Friday dawns as a day without panic, and concludes with peace and enjoyment.
Have clean sheets and towels. It is amazing how that can make you feel!
If possible, have some special and enjoyable music and candles.
A fire in the fireplace is terrific if you can manage it. One family has a computer program with a burning fireplace scene that they play during the evening for added enjoyment.
Have something special for the children. Playing Bible charades can be fun and educational. Many board games can also be adapted for Sabbath use by changing the questions to biblical themes. You can spend time going over Sabbath school lessons too. Older teens can discuss articles from Vertical Thought or The Good News magazines with their parents.
Invite Others to Your Celebration
There are many brethren who don't have the advantage of sharing the Sabbath with a family member. Welcoming them to share the Sabbath with you is a treat for you and for them.
Whether it is enjoying a meal, taking a walk or spending time in fellowship, sharing the Sabbath with someone of like mind is beneficial to you both and heightens the enjoyment of the day. It also helps picture the Kingdom of God, when everyone will be part of the same spiritual family.
The Sabbath pictures a time of peace and joy for all of mankind. When we work to prepare for that day, we are reminded of the daily preparations we all must make as we grow in grace and knowledge while awaiting the wonderful day when Jesus Christ will return to set up His Kingdom on the earth. Happy Sabbath! UN