How To Celebrate the Sabbath Today

A woman sitting on the grass overlooking an ocean, contemplating creation.

Seventh-day Adventists throughout the world celebrate the Sabbath every Saturday (the seventh day of the week). 

In this post, you’ll learn how you, too, can celebrate the Sabbath following biblical principles. It can be so refreshing to set aside time to enjoy its blessings, even amid crazy schedules, family obligations, and hectic workweeks. 

Here are 4 things you’ll learn:

  1. Reasons for celebrating the Sabbath
  2. How to plan for the Sabbath
  3. How to prepare at home for the Sabbath
  4. Different ways to enjoy the blessings of the Sabbath day

Let’s start with the reason we celebrate the Sabbath to begin with.

A Bible opened on a wood desk, to Matthew studying how Jesus celebrated the Sabbath.

The rich benefits of keeping the Sabbath

Adventists celebrate the Sabbath because God Himself “blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3, ESV).

It’s a weekly reminder for us to rest from our work, to enjoy what our Creator made for us, and to worship and commune with Him. 

Also, we keep it in obedience to God’s command to His people to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, NKJV).

(Sometimes we have to be told to stop and rest…or we just won’t!)

As the fourth of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath is a memorial of two things:

It’s also a sign of our sanctification through God’s work to transform us to be like Him—pure and loving (Ezekiel 20:20).

It’s also a way we show our complete trust in God as our provider and sustainer. This is in part demonstrated by ceasing work for a full 24 hours. We stop what we always do to earn a living. We rest from our labors, trusting He’ll take care of us as we honor Him (Deuteronomy 7:9).

So celebrating the Sabbath is to show our trust in God and to acknowledge the wonderful world He made for us. We have faith in Him as our Creator, Redeemer, and Provider. 

Looking at the Bible, you’ll find the seventh-day Sabbath was kept by our Lord Jesus Himself, the apostles, and even the early church. Not only by the Jews. It was also kept by early Christians.

The sun setting for Sabbath on Friday behind a peaceful cityscape and lake.

Sabbath preparation

With all that demands our attention throughout the week, it helps to plan and prepare for the Sabbath so we can celebrate it to the fullest.

This preparation is usually done on Friday, the day before Sabbath. Even in the Bible, Friday was known as “preparation day.” 

In Bible times, people ensured they completed all work before sundown on Friday evening (Mark 15:42; John 19:31,42; Luke 23:54).

But Friday preparation can be tricky sometimes. Like if you work and return home just before sundown—let’s say 5:00 pm. 

In this case, you can prepare in advance throughout the week by doing something every evening.

Let’s look at some ideas to get all your secular work done before sundown on Friday so you can truly enjoy the blessing and benefits of the Sabbath.

An African American woman dressed for Sabbath, reading her Bible.

How to plan for the Sabbath

How we prepare for the Sabbath today is based on principles found in the Bible. We can see how people learned from God’s instructions, and how they carried them out.

Here are areas that can be helpful to focus on during Sabbath preparation:

Plan to have Saturday as your day off from work

The Bible tells us to “do no work” on Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14, NKJV). 

And the “work” that takes up most of our days is our daily employment.

So, it’s important to plan to have Sabbath as our off day, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday (Leviticus 23:32).

This may be difficult for professionals like firefighters, or if you’re in the medical field. Even while keeping the Sabbath, you may need to be on call in case of emergencies.

But you can always set aside some time for meditation and private worship, even if you have to put in some time at a job like that. 

The primary thing is to just do what you can to not end up treating the Sabbath like any other ordinary day. Keep it sacred, and have your thoughts turned toward God as much as possible. This is good for your mind and your body.

Encourage your family members and visitors to rest, too

The Sabbath Commandment to rest covers not only you, but also “your son… your daughter…or your resident who stays with you” (Deuteronomy 5:14, NASB).

If you are a parent, you can enjoy Sabbath with your children as well, teaching them the blessing God intended for us on this weekly day off. This may mean not going to work, school, or doing homework (which they will surely appreciate!).

And for visitors staying with you, you can help them prepare, too.

Without being overwhelming, you can talk to them about the benefits of Sabbath and why it’s important to you. You can explain how you want to share with them the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits as well.

What if you’re the only one in your household who believes in Sabbath observance?

If you’re the only Sabbath-keeper, or if you’re a visitor in a house that doesn’t keep the Sabbath, you don’t have to be worried. And you don’t have to try to get everyone to keep it with you. 

Just explain yourself and prepare. Then go ahead and keep it in the most pleasant way possible, demonstrating how wonderful of a blessing it is. 

Some people may not understand what Sabbath means for people today, but you can show them that it’s all about enjoying what God created for us and acknowledging His power and love.

Many people make it a point to go to church on Sabbath, just as Jesus and the apostles did. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet together, worship, pray, and study about God, our Creator. 

When at home, many people take time to relax while reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, playing music, writing songs or poems, doing fun activities with the family, or taking a walk while praying. 

Wherever you find yourself on Sabbath, you can honor God’s holy day.

Plan for your employees to have the Sabbath off, too

The fourth Commandment clearly states that the Sabbath rest is also for “your male servant [and] your female servant…that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you” (Deuteronomy 5:14, NKJV).

This applies if you have employees at your home or your place of business. Or if you’ve hired someone for a project. 

These people also need the benefits of the Sabbath, so give them a day off, too.

Plan to avoid buying or selling on Sabbath

In Nehemiah 13:15-22, we see God’s people being asked not to sell their goods on Sabbath. And even if other people try to sell to them, they should not buy from them. This is because business transactions are part of the work that we should rest from.

The Sabbath is a day to take a break from the concerns of making money or getting ahead in the business world.

So in preparation for Sabbath, we can try to do many of these things in advance. Avoid any unnecessary transactions that can be done before or after Sabbath.

Prepare food ahead of time

In Exodus 16:23, the Israelites were advised to cook their Sabbath meals on Friday, before the Sabbath. 

We can follow this example and make things ahead of time, so we don’t need to worry about it at Sabbath mealtimes. Then we just need to warm it up and set it out!

Even if it’s just an entree or two that we make the day before, the time saved can really make a difference.

And there’s more we can do to prepare for Sabbath than pre-cooking meals. Let’s look at some things we can do around the house.

Father and young daughter laughing while they sweep and mop to get ready for the Sabbath.

Preparing the Home for Sabbath

Clutter in the home causes stress, even if we’re not fully aware of it. But think about how nice it feels when your house is in order, and there’s nothing else you need to do! 

A clean and orderly home can certainly make the Sabbath feel more restful. Neat spaces help support a more focused, peaceful, and pleasant state of mind. 

That’s why it’s a great idea to schedule some cleaning and tidying time before Sabbath each week. 

These chores might include:

  • Cleaning the bathrooms
  • Tidying up the kitchen after preparing the Sabbath meals
  • Sweeping and mopping the floors
  • Clearing away clutter
  • Dusting shelves and tables
  • Changing the sheets on the beds 

Extra ways to make your home feel more special on the Sabbath are:

  • Set up a place for prayer, reflection, and/or Bible study
  • Set the table in a special way
  • Light candles, or diffuse essential oils
  • Make a special Sabbath meal for the family, or to share with friends
  • Clear away things that can be distractions, or that make us think of weekly obligations or worries

With all these in place, we’ll be able to “call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable” (Isaiah 58:13, 14, NKJV).

Then we’ll be ready to welcome the Sabbath with anticipation. 

Welcoming the Sabbath

It can be extra nice to pay attention to the time sunset happens on Friday night. You can breathe a sigh of relaxation as you acknowledge the beginning of the Sabbath day. It can make things more special, and it can help us be intentional about “turning off” our mental processes about work or other obligations, and direct our thoughts toward God and the blessings He wants to give us.

Friday Evening Vespers

Many find Friday evening the perfect time for a casual worship gathering to welcome the Sabbath. “Vespers” is the name often used to describe this evening service.

Sometimes it can be held at someone’s home, and many times families invite friends and other church members for fellowship that draws them together. 

They pray, sing, and share a devotional from the Bible. Sometimes people share thoughts or testimonies.

Snacks like fruit and popcorn, or other favorites, can be a fun addition as well. 

Sometimes, church members gather in churches for vespers. This is especially helpful for those who live alone or who are the only Sabbath keepers in their homes.

And you can still hold your own vespers wherever you find it easy to relax and focus on the joy of the Sabbath. Maybe it’s a cup of hot cider in a chair in your living room while you read or pray, or maybe it’s at a scenic place you like to drive to. 

Sabbath Morning

After a good night’s sleep, and with no morning chores like the rest of the week, Sabbath mornings provide a fitting opportunity to spend with God. Your mind is free from so many of its usual burdens, and it can be exciting to learn more about who God is and what He has in store for us. You might even be surprised at how fun it can be to dig into some of the profound ideas and concepts expressed in God’s Word. 

Personal Devotional time

Spending time each day in prayer and reading the Bible is important. But on Sabbath, you have more time to focus without distraction.

You get to dive deep into Scripture, which helps you grow closer to God and deepens your faith. 

You can begin with soothing music that prepares your mind for worship. Then spend time reflecting, praying, and reading your Bible or devotional. 

Family Worship

Mother and her two children pray and worship together for Friday vespers.

The Sabbath also provides dedicated time for family fellowship and worship. 

Just like Friday evening vespers, a family can get together for prayer, singing, sharing, or reading the Holy Scriptures or a devotional.

There’s something sweet and special about coming together with those you love the most for a time of worship. It breeds a kind of closeness and unity that’s not found anywhere else.

It also provides a precious opportunity to teach children about God, fulfilling God’s words in Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

It can also be nice to share a special Sabbath breakfast with your family before heading to church.

Sabbath Worship in Church

On Sabbath morning, you’ll often find Adventists attending their local Seventh-day Adventist church

Or once in a while, others can decide to meet outside in nature for a change.

Meeting together provides a unique and vital worship experience. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul encourages us to meet often with fellow believers, and to encourage each other in love and faithfulness (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Here’s what to expect if you visit an Adventist Church:

  • First, there’s Sabbath School.

This is like a Bible study hour. Church members go to different Sabbath school class, usually categorized by age or stage of life. 

In these classes you might experience singing, listening to mission stories, and more in-depth discussions about Scripture. Usually there is a lesson outline for each quarter, tackling different topics.

An open Bible laying on a wood table for study.
  • Then the main church service

The whole church meets together for a prepared worship program.

Typically, there is music, praying, giving of tithes and offerings, and then a preacher shares the sermon of the day. 

Sometimes there may be special activities like the Lord’s supper.

And after church, you get to meet friends and head for lunch.

  • Sabbath Lunch

Sabbath lunch can be special because church members often get to share a meal. They can bring it over to the church and share everything, potluck-style.

In other cases, several families come together at a friend’s home for lunch. Or a family invites students who are away from their families to enjoy a family meal with them. Or different groups in church, like the youth group, young families, or retirees, etc., organize a meal for fellowship.

Then after the meal, they can stay for fun family activities, or just enjoy some quiet time with God.   

Sabbath Afternoon

Just like the rest of the Sabbath, the afternoon can be a wonderful time to spend with God and the special people in your life.

Here are several ways to continue enjoying the Sabbath. 

1. Sabbath afternoon programs at church

Some churches have afternoon programs on Sabbath, such as:

  • Bible studies
  • Music concerts or sing-alongs
  • Walks, hikes, or bike rides
  • Youth or children’s programs
  • Agape feast
  • Visiting sick or discouraged church members or neighbors
  • Other volunteer opportunities

2. Appreciating Nature

On the Sabbath, we’re reminded of God as our Creator, who is worthy of our worship (Revelation 4:11).

So, taking time to be outside and enjoy His creation in nature is a great way to spend the Sabbath.

And to make it different than any other day, take notice of things you usually pass by. Stop and listen to the breeze, notice the patterns on leaves and bark, think about the feel of grass under your feet, etc. We can awaken new levels of appreciation for our Creator.

This also teaches children to appreciate simplicity and beauty. And even adults find rest and healing in nature from the weariness of their everyday life.

Family sitting together in a field watching the close of Sabbath sunset.

Here are some simple ideas for enjoying nature next Sabbath:

  • Visit a park 
  • Go on a picnic
  • Hike in the mountains 
  • Visit a quiet beach
  • Sit by a lake or splash in the creek
  • Sit outside in the yard or on the porch with a hot or cold beverage
  • Lay a blanket out in the sunshine and soak up some good Vitamin D
  • Go on a nature walk and collect unique rocks, leaves, or acorns
  • Take a pair of binoculars and watch for birds
  • Listen to the sounds of nature – birds, frogs, and other animals
  • Encourage your children to explore the world around them. 
  • Enjoy a weekend campout over the Sabbath
  • Watch a nature documentary

3. Play Bible games or trivia

Children of all ages love games. 

Playing Bible-themed games is a fun way to learn more about the Bible and connect over fun and laughter. 

Young Hispanic woman smiling and enjoying Sabbath while sitting against a tree holding an open black Bible.

4. Sermons or Bible-based documentaries

Sometimes on Sabbath afternoon, you’d rather stay home, like on rainy days. You can watch a sermon from a favorite preacher, or find a documentary about the Bible, history, animals, etc. 

Kids will especially enjoy Bible stories and programming. They’ll learn Bible truths as well as important character lessons.

5. Bible-themed crafts

Children love making crafts, and this can be a fun way for siblings and friends to bond. They also benefit a lot when their parents or other significant adults join them.

From the time spent together, they can learn Bible lessons and get a sense of value and worth. 

Some fun craft ideas might be:

  • Drawing or painting Bible stories
  • Building an ark out of popsicle sticks
  • Building the wall of Jericho with legos, blocks, or boxes (and then knocking it down!)
  • Decorate a prayer journal

Closing the Sabbath

And as the sun sets on Saturday evening, many believers gather to close the Sabbath. This can be at home, in church, or wherever they are.

They thank God for the blessing of Sabbath, and pray for grace and blessings for the new week ahead.

Before going on with the responsibilities that await them, they first commit themselves to God’s guidance (Amos 8:5).

And these prayers continue throughout the week.

We’ll always need God’s help as we get ready for each Sabbath, since there are plenty of things in this world that can distract us or cause us stress.

As we meet with challenges when trying to keep the Sabbath, we can pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

We can be assured that God is faithful to answer our prayers (1 John 5:14).

The Sabbath is a special day, given to us by a loving Father. It’s a gift of immeasurable value and profound benefits that we can look forward to each week. 

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