By Blair Parke, Crosswalk.com
Ahh, Labor Day. The last holiday weekend of the summer before we all jump headfirst into fall plans and preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the weekend where we might have our last dip in the pool with family, our last weekend of getting bargain sales, and last weekend before school activities start to take off.
But what if for Labor Day this year, we reflect on the importance of resting from work, something that God wants us to do every week as He did at the beginning of time? Instead of seeing the day as just another summer holiday, we recognize and celebrate the need to rest from not just work, but anything that lessens our time with family, with ourselves, and, most importantly, with God.
We are going to look more closely into how Labor Day began, as well as what God’s perspective is on rest. What are some ways we can incorporate rest into this Labor Day weekend that strengthens our relationship with the Lord and others? Maybe with this enhanced outlook about what Labor Day truly represents in our lives, we can make more of an effort to rest and reflect – not just on this holiday, but all throughout the year.
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Labor Day’s Beginnings
Celebrated in both the United States and Canada, Labor Day is celebrated the first Monday in September as a way to recognize workers and what they contribute to our society. Back in 1882, a union leader in the United States named Peter J. McGuire encouraged the Central Labor Union of New York to consider designating a day to celebrate workers in America. He is also credited as starting the United Brotherhood of Carpenters in 1881.
After the union’s approval of a day, the first Labor Day was held on Monday, September 5, 1882, with a parade in New York City attended by 10,000 workers. The date was set because it was a good date between the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.
The response was so well-received that by 1884, the Knights of Labor (who sponsored the first Labor Day parade) decided to set the first Monday in September as Labor Day for all of New York moving forward. Other states liked the idea as well and joined in festivities until 1894, when President Grover Cleveland proposed a bill that would make Labor Day a national holiday.
Labor Day has remained as a holiday, but has changed into what we know it now to be: a weekend with friends and family celebrating the last weekend of summer.
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Labor Day and Rest
Many think of Labor Day as that extra day away from work and school to take a breath and spend time with family before moving into the fall and holiday season. Sadly, some also treat it as another day at the office or doing work of some kind.
However, the necessity for rest was something determined long ago by God. In Genesis 2:2-3, the Bible shares how after making the heavens and the earth and creating mankind, God rested on the seventh day:
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
From the beginning, God displayed that rest was important after working hard, even though He personally didn’t need the rest. What He did want believers to realize was that the seventh day of the week was to be a day of rest, of reflection, and of having gratitude for what God has done and is doing in our lives.
But could the same significance apply to Labor Day? Could we use our Labor Day to be in thanks to God and be willing to get away from the daily hustle to renew our relationship with Him?
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5 Ways to Make Labor Day God-Centered
Yes, there are ways to turn Labor Day into a day of rest and recognizing the blessings we have in God, not only recharging our relationship with God in the process, but being prepared spiritually for whatever the week may bring.
1. Start the Day with a Bible Verse for Yourself, Family and/of Friends
What better way to begin your Labor Day morning (or afternoon) than by reading a verse from the Bible that celebrates God and being blessed in this day He has given us. If you are studying the Bible personally, you could choose a verse for yourself, or you could use a devotional or websites like Bible Study Tools to find a verse to reflect on the day.
2. Write Down or Share with Loved Ones Something You Are Grateful For
Just as you might do for Thanksgiving or Christmas, when you are around your family or friends (or even by yourself), think of one thing you are grateful to God for that day. Maybe it is happiness in having a job, or maybe it is being grateful for the blessings God has given you. But taking a moment in your day to reflect gratefulness always makes the day better.
3. Take a Quiet Moment to Meditate or Pray
It can be hard during Labor Day to take a moment for yourself, but make it a point today to meditate and/or pray about the day or how thankful you feel in being able to rest. Rest doesn’t mean that you must spend the whole time lying down asleep; it means you get away from the distractions to self-reflect and breathe. Prayer and meditation get you there in an instant.
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4. Take Part in a Low-Key Activity
Most holidays are about getting to people’s houses to celebrate or hosting parties at your own house, but maybe this Labor Day, choose to do something with less energy instead. Spend the afternoon reading or relaxing with your family watching a movie. Sit with friends and talk for hours or take that well-deserved afternoon (or morning) nap. Instead of treating the day as just another marathon of activities or chores, use Labor Day for what it is truly meant to be: to rest.
5. Do a Random Act of Kindness
Just because it is a day of rest doesn’t mean that you can’t do good things for others. Take a moment in the day to do just one random act of kindness for someone, whether it is giving a compliment to a stranger or paying for someone’s meal or stopping by to say hello to a lonely neighbor. Resting today from the busyness of life allows you time to appreciate God’s blessings and spread His love around to those who need it as well.
Make Labor Day Special This Year
From its start in 1882 as a day to celebrate unionized workers to becoming the last summer hurrah before fall begins, Labor Day has always been a day that we see as a day of enjoyment and fellowship.
However, we can sometimes make Labor Day like any other day, filled with activities and obligations instead of a day to rest and be appreciative of what you have.
With a few ways to bring more rest and godly reflection to your life, Labor Day can become a day that is more about taking the time to embrace the present of the moment than planning for the future. So, take those moments this Labor Day to rest, to reflect, and to recognize what God has done in your life, is presently doing, and will do in the future.
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