It happened again and again. Time after time, the presenter emphasized biblical principles of Sabbath-keeping. But again and again, young people attending her workshop asked questions to find out whether this or that specific activity is, in the presenter’s opinion, appropriate for the Sabbath day. What about swimming? What about sports?
The lively discussion was part of the “The Sabbath, Your Delight!” presentation by Yvonne Seidel, dean of the School of Education at Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria, at the 2023 Generation. Youth. Christ. (GYC) Europe Conference in Riga, Latvia, on August 11. In a 75-minute interactive presentation, Seidel reviewed key Bible-based facets of the seventh-day Sabbath, which Seventh-day Adventists keep from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. She then suggested practical ways of making the Sabbath a day of delight.
Meaning of the Sabbath Day
Seidel led dozens of her workshop attendees to reflect, first of all, on four biblical aspects of the Sabbath, as an instrument of Creation, Redemption, Sanctification, and Restoration, and then to delve into practical aspects of Sabbath-keeping.
The focus was on moving past “the letter of the law” to find ways of enjoying the blessings God promises to bestow on those who keep that day holy, she said.
“What does the Sabbath mean to you?” was the icebreaker question. Seidel invited attendees to discuss in small groups the connotations of Sabbath-keeping. “A day of rest,” “a day of resetting,” “a day of connection” — the reactions from the workshop attendees kept pouring in. Seidel also prompted them to remember those Bible verses they usually quote when sharing the truth about the Sabbath with another person.
The basic Bible-based principles of Sabbath-keeping have not changed, she emphasized. “Be refreshed, do good, fellowship with other believers, and spend time in nature,” Seidel advised.
One Sabbath principle is over all, she said. “Spend time with your Creator, Redeemer, Master Teacher, and Restorer!”
Some Practical Suggestions
Among her practical suggestions to keep the Sabbath and enjoy that day, Seidel reminded young people the need to prepare all week. “Live all week with the Sabbath in mind,” she told them. “If you wait till Friday, it will be too late.”
Another principle is preparing to receive a special guest, in this case, God Himself. “You clean, bake, and cook, because you want to spend as much time with Him as possible!” As regards the beginning of the Sabbath hours, “try to think of it as a plane leaving,” Seidel said. “It will help you to be done in time.”
Sabbath afternoons should be devoted to “whatever enables you to learn more of [God],” she added. “Fellowship with others, pondering in His Word, and learning from the book of nature.”
Again, Seidel suggested, the focus should be not on specific activities but on the context and the principle behind the day. For instance, she shared how, as she was growing up in a Seventh-day Adventist home decades ago, the children were not allowed to swim or jump into the water.
“Years later, as parents, we let our daughters do these things,” she said. “On Sabbath afternoons when they were kids, we would go for a nature walk to a lake on our property, and they would jump into the lake as they always did.” She added, “It’s not only what you do but the context. Can you keep the Sabbath holy where you are going? Will there be other people with music, etc., there? Why do you do what you are doing?”
A Distinct, Separate Day
The underlying principle, Seidel emphasized, is to “keep the Sabbath meaningful.” She reminded her audience of some basic principles involved. “We try not to do anything that’s commercial — we don’t buy or sell on the Sabbath,” she said. “We don’t go anywhere where we need to pay an entrance fee, we don’t eat out in restaurants, and we don’t spend time in Amazon purchasing good books!”
But there are many other activities that we can do, she said. Above all, Sabbath should be a special day for kids. Among others, Seidel suggested introducing special Sabbath games and activities, setting up candles, preparing special food, inviting guests, and giving children Sabbath surprises.
A casual observation seems to indicate that with time, there seems to be a tendency to make the Sabbath more common and less special. “Growing up, we would never handle money — to purchase the Sabbath School quarterlies at church, for instance — on the Sabbath,” she shared. “Now it’s more common for members to handle money transactions,” which does not necessarily contribute to making Sabbath a separate, holy day.
But it shouldn’t be so, because Sabbath will be an eternal sign of our connection to our Creator and Redeemer, Seidel said. She quoted Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White, who in The Desire of Ages wrote, “So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creator’s power. And when Eden shall bloom on earth again, God's holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the sun” (p. 283).
Generation. Youth. Christ. (GYC) is a youth-led organization that supports the spiritual mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but is an independent supporting ministry not controlled by or legally affiliated with the church.