Why do you celebrate the Jewish holidays and not the Christian ones? This was a sincere question from a friend of mine recently. At the moment, I did not have time to give her a detailed answer. So, I briefly replied, we celebrate the Biblical Feasts as God commanded in Leviticus 23. Later, I was given an opportunity to share a little more with her and another friend. As I have thought about that conversation, I though I would take some time and write up my answer to their questions.
As we visited, I explained that several years ago our family decided to study out the holidays. So using Konos , I made unit studies for the whole school year based on the holidays. (Both these woman had used the KONOS materials in homeschooling their children). Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and even days like Veteran’s Day and Fourth of July were added to the years studies. The theme for the year was Joy and Generosity. I was very excited. It turned out to be a life changing year. Each trip to the library, and each time the kids did research on the internet, they discovered things I never knew about the holidays. Soon the kids wanted to know why we celebrated and observed holidays that were Catholic rooted and even deeper rooted in paganism. They had some valid points and asked that we consider not celebrating Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc. To the kids these holidays were no different than Halloween, and we had never observed Halloween. These friends that I was speaking with actually did not observe the Catholic holidays either. So, they understood our desire to leave these holidays behind.
So, their next question was why do you now celebrate the Jewish holidays. This was a bigger question than the first one. So, I first explained that a few years ago as a family we decided to make the Bible our primary textbook. So to prepare to do that I decided to read through the complete Bible quickly, and then again thoroughly. In doing that, I began to realize I did not know my Bible like I thought I did. I always believed that all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness, as written in Paul’s letter to Timothy. I just didn’t realize how much more was in the Bible that I needed to apply to my life.
They were both listening and curious to hear how this all lead our family to keep the feasts. They had both known our family for a long time, and they knew that we still believed the same foundational truths of the Bible as them. The truth of the gospel that Jesus Christ was and is God. The truth that he was born of a virgin named Mary, and lived and died as a man does. And the truth that He conquered death, and rose from the dead after three days in the tomb. Over the years, I had visited with both these woman on theology and life, and they knew my faith was strong and that in the past we agreed on doctrine. So, they were sincerely interested.
So, I began by telling them that the Bible lists certain days as God’s Holy Days, and that the days are all listed in Leviticus 23 clearly as forever Holy Days to God to be observed by His people. The Bible mentions these Holy Days in other places all through scripture and even mentions Jesus, His disciples, and Paul keeping these Holy Days. In addition to the Holy Days God commanded His People to keep forever, there are two other days mentioned in scripture as days to be observed by Jews.
I went on to explain first the two Jewish festivals not listed in Leviticus 23. The first Jewish festival mentioned is Purim. This is a celebration mentioned at the end of the book of Esther. During the time of Esther, the Jews were in captivity in the kingdom of Persia. God uses Esther to save the Jewish people from complete annihilation, and this amazing story of salvation is celebrated by Jews every year. It is NOT a commanded holiday, and we do NOT have to celebrate it. But as Christians it is a fun day to celebrate and be reminded of God’s great salvation plan through the Jewish people, through Christ.
The other feast mentioned in the Bible, that is a Jewish feast, is the Feast of Dedication (Hanukah), also, called the festival of lights. It is a celebration of a prophesied rededication of the temple. Daniel and other prophets tell of a time when the temple will be defiled and the abomination of desolation will take place in it. At that time, God will use the Jews to take back the temple, and it will be rededicated. This prophecy was fulfilled and recorded in history by Josephus and other historians. The book of the Maccabees tells of this prophecy fulfillment. The feast of dedication (Hanukah) is the yearly celebration of this great miracle of YHWH. We know that this celebration was still being kept at the time of Jesus, because it is mentioned in the Gospels that Jesus went to the temple at the time of the feast of dedication. Unfortunately, this annual celebration of Hanukah has become very corrupted with influence of other cultural beliefs. Therefore, our family chooses to recognize this day as a Jewish Independence Day of sort. After studying it out thoroughly last year, we have decided not to decorate or exchange gifts at this time of the year, so as not to be a stumbling block to others. There is too much corruption and misunderstanding surrounding this Jewish feast day.
After explaining these two clearly Jewish days of celebration. I quickly explained that we do not see anything wrong with celebrating national days, such as Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and such. That we did not see any where in scripture that celebrating one day above another is wrong, unless the celebration is rooted in paganism. God’s Word is clear that everyday is to be a day to honor and celebrate Him, and that we are not to honor or celebrate Him in the ways of the pagans. We also have no problem with recognizing the day of ones birth, as a day to praise YHWH for their life.
So now it was time to explain why we celebrated the Biblical feasts and what they are. To find out my answer join me in my next post.