The Sabbath A Day of Delight

By Missi Lara

As I grew up in the Church of God, the Sabbath was not generally a joyful day—it was a day filled with “do’s” and “don’ts”. But God says the Sabbath is a day of delight (Isa 58:13). We need to make the Sabbath so delightful that we and our children look forward to it with joyful anticipation.

My son, Justin, and I were reading about the Puritans and how they didn’t allow their children to play on the Sabbath. They were expected to sit still all day during services. (Almost sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) Justin told me he was glad we don’t keep a Puritan Sabbath. And who can blame him? Keeping children from being children on the Sabbath only serves to make them dread it.

We must teach our children the joys of keeping the Sabbath day holy because it is a gift from God to us (Mark 2:27). Incorporate family traditions into your Sabbath for everyone to enjoy. There are many books available in Bible bookstores from which you can glean ideas to make the Sabbath a delight for everyone in your family. For example: Let’s Make a Memory by Gloria Gaither & Shirley Dobson, and Celebrate the Feasts by Martha Zimmerman. Talk to others and find out what they do on the Sabbath that your family might enjoy.

Children especially love traditions. They will quickly let you know which activities they welcome and which ones they don’t really care for. And after a few weeks, if you skip one they especially enjoy, they will likely let you know they miss it.

We start each Sabbath by blowing the shofar. It’s a thrill for the kids the first time they manage to get a sound out of it. The little ones still sometimes ask if they can blow the shofar on days other than the Sabbath, but it is strictly a Sabbath activity. That makes it extra special when they do get to blow it.


Many of us traditionally start the Sabbath with a special dinner. Dinner is a great place to add some traditions that are enjoyable for everyone. Since we instituted these traditions, our children look forward to dinner far more than they did when it was just a prayer and food.

Make the table setting unique. Use your best dishes, or collect dishes from a thrift store and let the children set the table with whatever dishes they want to use. Let the kids use special glasses during Sabbath dinner. Collect wineglasses from thrift stores or purchase some inexpensive ones (that way you won’t be disappointed when they break) to be used on the Sabbath only.

Candles are a big part of our dinner, even during the summer when we eat in the daytime. We start with a prayer for Sabbath rest and blessings and then we light the dinner candles. After the prayer, everyone at the table has a chance to light a candle. Over the years we have purchased a wide variety of votive candleholders. We like to have enough on hand so everyone can light a candle even when we have dinner guests. Each person thanks God for what he or she is personally thankful and then lights their own candle.

The children love lighting the candles and choosing their candleholder. And they remember that we always have something for which to be thankful. After all the candles are lit, someone asks a blessing on the food.

The most special part of the evening comes after the candle lighting. My husband lays hands on each of the children and blesses them with their own unique blessing. The kids appreciate listening to what he has to say about them each week. And when he lays hands on our firstborn, the baby gets so excited she can hardly stand it. While she’s waiting for her turn, she spends the whole time pointing to her head. Often when we have guests, their children request their own blessing after watching our children receive theirs. After the children have been blessed, I receive a blessing from my husband. When we’re in a rush, or under time constraints for whatever reason, this is the part of the Sabbath evening that we don’t cut out.

Occasionally, the girls and I wear a head covering during the prayers and blessing of the Sabbath dinner. We have some pretty scarves set aside for just this purpose. The girls enjoy choosing their head covering for the evening. We review “that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor 11:3) It’s a good object lesson for all the children. They understand a physical example far more than just talk.

Praise & Worship

At some time during the Sabbath, we celebrate with praise and worship. We usually do this on Friday night. But sometimes we’re too tired or we have a special activity to attend, in which case we praise on Saturday morning.

We play praise music (Hosanna! Praise and Integrity Music Just for Kids with the Donut Man are our personal favorites) and dance and sing together. The kids love dancing with Mommy and Daddy. We have no special dances or memorized steps. We just move and enjoy the music and each other.

We also have many musical instruments (tambourines, recorders, wrist bells, triangles, etc.) to help us make a joyful noise. Don’t let the expense deter you. We started out with just one or two instruments and added to our collection over the years. Most small rhythm instruments can be purchased from music stores or educational supply stores at a low price.

The instruments help us to “make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” (Psa 98:4) Many of the references in the Bible are examples of lively and noisy praise to God, not somber, still and quiet singing. So we do our best to follow Biblical examples.

Another fun part of our worship is singing solos. Everyone sings a solo, even those who feel that they should not sing aloud in public. After all, the Bible says to make a joyful noise—not necessarily a beautiful one (Psa 66:1-2; 81:1-2; 95:1-2). This is a time of glorifying God, not ourselves. If you feel like you shouldn’t be singing in front of others, it’s a good lesson in humility. And God expects us to praise Him with whatever voice He gave us.

Time With Our Father

Another important part of the Sabbath is spending family time together. We are to observe the Sabbath in order to spend special time with our Heavenly Father. Likewise, the Sabbath is a day for our children to spend special time with their earthly father.

When my husband gets home on Friday nights he tells the kids “Daddy’s home for the Sabbath.” What a thrill for them to know that he will be home in the morning so they can cuddle with him when they get up. Then they get to spend a good part of the day just being with Daddy. Of course, giving of yourself and doing good on the Sabbath are also important (Matt 12:12). As we overflow with joy on the Sabbath day, we can give that joy to others. God gives the Sabbath to us. We give to our children by spending special time with them.

Have a good supply of Sabbath videos for the children. They are a lifesaver. Donut Man, McGee and Me and Veggie Tales are some of our choices. That way they can spend time watching wholesome videos while you get your quiet time with your Father, which is so critical for your spiritual life.

Making Memories

Making memories is a simple thing. I remember the restaurant we always stopped at on the way to the Feast of Tabernacles when I was a child. I also remember always going to Hickory Farms before the Feast. I still have a warm fuzzy feeling every time I pass that store. Even the simplest tradition can bring back fond memories.

On Sabbath morning we cuddle. Don’t underestimate the power of a cuddle, and be creative in your cuddling. Maybe laughing cuddles or bouncing cuddles or wrestling cuddles–whatever suits your family’s personality.

Cuddling in bed with parents holds such great memories for many people when they are grown. A friend of mine with a grown son was telling me that their son still comes in sometimes and cuddles with his parents on weekend morning. And it still ends up in a tickling match.

Go for a walk or a bike ride—at the beach, by the lake, at the park, in the forest. Enjoy and interact with God’s creation. After all, this is the work He rested from on the Sabbath day.

Acting out Bible stories is another great Sabbath activity. Props and costumes add some fun to the experience, but they’re certainly not necessary. It doesn’t require memorizing lines because we all know the stories and we just make up our lines as we go along. Everyone chooses a part (more than one if there are extra parts) and we just have fun with it. Actually, acting out the stories can add some insight into your child’s knowledge of the Bible.

These are some of the traditions that we have adopted as a family. We try many things after reading ideas, hearing from others or just by using our imagination. If the things we try don’t work for us, they fall by the wayside. If we enjoy them, they become family traditions. Try a few things and find the traditions that work for your family.

Doing Good

There are many opportunities to do good on the Sabbath. Watch someone else’s small child(ren) during a sermon (so they can listen for once) or after services so they can fellowship. Help someone with full arms carry their stuff into services. Bake some cookies and hand them out just for fun. Give someone a smile and a hug. The list is endless, just be creative and find ways to do good for others on the Sabbath. Find opportunities to make it a joyful day for everyone.

Strive to make the Sabbath a day of delight for everyone. Dwell on the “do’s”, not the “don’ts”. Concentrate on the activities you can do. You won’t have time to think about the activities that you might be missing if your day is filled with enjoyable activities of doing good and praising and worshipping our Great God. &