South Africa became our family’s home in February 2006. We arrived soon after the January commencement of the school year and well after the festive season. Over the years, I have come to adore this country – yes, adore! Whereas many are leaving their homeland to experience less crime and its related trauma and to seek more opportunities for their families, I am so glad our family remains here to love, invest, and minister in this beautiful land.
In 2006, I had no idea what the festive season even meant that first year of our enculturation. However, since enjoying almost eleven festive seasons since, I am grateful that our family has incorporated this rhythm of southern African life into our lives.
Having recently returned from the United States where the pace of life has excessively ramped up since our departure eleven years ago, the healing balm of festive South Africa brought rest and rejuvenation.
For it is this time of year when schools close, businesses take breaks, and families have time to relax in the bush, sun themselves on the beach, or unwind in their homes without the cares, worries, and pressures of school and work life. Churches switch to holiday schedules – and amazingly, some don’t even convene on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day! The sole point of this festive time is to enjoy rest, relish friendships, appreciate family and my favorite – just be!
Of course, grocery stores and petrol stations remain accessible. However, many businesses that one would expect to be open are not. They shut their doors for a period of time so that their employees may have time with their families. A common sign is posted, “Dear Valuable Customers, we are closed for the festive season…. Wishing You a Wonderful New Year.”
Thus, if a plumbing emergency erupts, let’s just say that it won’t be easy to locate a plumber this time of year.
The expectation of this season of blessing is rest.
Imagine that, my American friends.
What would you do with three to five weeks of taking a break – as your country does – from everything?
The longer I live on this earth the more I believe that different countries and cultures for that matter have much to teach me about how to live on this earth as a Christ follower.
Had I remained in the United States, I never would have experienced this invitation of rest.
The fact that the festive season coincides with Advent only makes it that much richer!
For Believers like me, Advent is a time of celebration and anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. In our family, we take time each of the four Sundays before Christmas to consider and remember the wondrous coming of Emmanuel, our God with us, on earth. It’s a time to pause, reflect, and give thanks. This season of interlude truly supports and enhances this waiting, expectant time of Advent.
However, Advent is also an opportunity to recognize that a second-coming of Jesus Christ is still ahead of us! Our hope in Christ is centered upon living a life in His honor as we await His glorious return! For me, this rest period in southern Africa allows us space to reflect upon the Kingdom of Christ and its revelation and fulfillment. I love that!
Friends, wherever you are in the world, whether in the northern hemisphere or in the southern hemisphere, I believe we all can embrace this invitation of rest.
It reads in Hebrews 4: 9-11:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest….
The festive season allows me the opportunity to enter into a period of rest like no other time of year. The challenge of course is to create a Sabbath-rest rhythm during the majority of the year. It’s a choice, of course. It’s a determination to seek a different, less frenetic, less overwhelming, less stressful way of living.
A rhythm of rest in life.
Is it possible?
I can tell you that it is – especially in how our family lives today. Our evenings and weekends are set aside for family and for rest. Of course things come up, but for the most part, we don’t have appointments, meetings, etc. and this allows us time to rest and rejuvenate for the school and work that follows the next day. Honestly, we didn’t function this way until we moved to South Africa.
And we love it.
Could you do it?
Would you choose to set aside or even reduce the amount of evening appointments you have at present?
Would you sit down with your family and discuss how to limit weekend activities in order to establish a rhythm of rest in your day-to-day life and week?
I believe rest is vitally important to our state of well-being. Why do so many people feel overwhelmed? Why do many people brand themselves with a label of ‘Overwhelmed and Stressed Out”? They almost wear the “I’m Overwhelmed and I Know It” as some kind of badge of honor.
Who wants to live a gotta-please-the-world and keep-up-with-the-Jones mentality? What kind of anxiety-producing model is this to our children?
The world wants us to keep running and running and running. For what purpose and to what end?
As my daily reading in Romans 12:2 exhorts, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good and pleasing will.”
In my view, the way towards renewal is through a rhythm of rest. Not running. Not pleasing. Not being overwhelmed and anxious.
Instead, I am enjoying the invitation of rest right now – as part of South Africa’s festive season!