ON THE SEVENTH day of Christmas my True Love sent to me seven swans a-swimming.
“Six days you shall work… the seventh you shall rest.” That’s the biblical principle at work all throughout the Old Testament. It’s the law that those of Jesus’ time looked to with which to abide. And what is ever more perfect about this particular principle was that it abided with the principle of seven — the number of divine perfection, totality and completion.
But seven, the number designation for divine perfection, isn’t the number for perfectionism. Note the subtle distinction. God’s perfection is pure and right and never better. Our perfectionism takes a good thing and makes it wrong through making too much of it — bending it into the shape of idolatry. And the principle of rest puts paid to perfectionism, because the perfectionist can never allow themselves to rest — there is always more to do to make a thing perfect.
God’s gift to us in the number seven is principally related to our lives: our work.
God gave us six days to work in; to feel justifiably satisfied in what we’re able to contribute. But as much, and if not more, he’s given us the seventh day — the blessed Sabbath principle of rest — for sustenance of life, for recovery, for revitalisation, and never more for enjoyment of God himself. In Sabbath, we not only rest from our work, and allow our big and bothersome burdens to swan away, we delight in our relationship with the Lord.
At Christmas time we think particularly of Sabbath — time to draw aside from life, enjoy time to reflect over the year gone and the one coming, spend time with family, and mostly to recall reminiscences of the Christ-child born that two-millennia ago.
But all too often we can arrive at Christmas day having limped to the finish line because we’ve attempted to balance far too many burdens and it can seem like we’re not six days from the last Sabbath, but sixty-six. And, for many of us, that’s true.
What gift is our True Love giving us in this Christmas season?
It’s the gift of the Father’s Son. It’s the gift of a message of simplicity. It’s the gift of a reminder of dependence — that God is worthy of our reliance. And it’s the gift of knowing that while we’re blessed to work, we’re destined for rest.
God’s greatest practical gift is the gift of rest — that we might take time to find God and delight in him once more. And what a great contrast — the six geese a-laying (working and producing) with seven swans serenely a-swimming (the picture of rest).
On the seventh day of Christmas my True Love sent to me seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.