Holy days Batman! What happened to our holidays? Good question Robin! I have been wondering that for sometime now myself. It seems as if there is some confusion concerning the reason we celebrate. In the past few years it seems as if we have lost much of the spiritual significance to our “Christian holidays”. In particular our Christian High Sabbaths of Christmas and Easter. Much of this is due in large part to the silence of the governing authority within the organized church in regard to the origin of the days and traditions surrounding our celebrations. This silence to many is interpreted as cover-up, or perhaps, some conspiracy to deceive, or at very least collusion with the deceptive darkness. Indeed many of us rose up in indignation upon the discovery of the cruel hoax by which we have participated in with annual celebrations of the birthday of Jesus on December 25th, only to find out that he was probably born several months earlier during the Feast of Tabernacles. Especially if what the apostle John wrote in his gospel is accurate. (“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled or pitched his tent among us dwelt among us.”John 1:14 ) Not to mention the pain of discovery when we found that there was no such thing as the Easter Bunny, and the greatest moment of disappointment of my life was the revelation that Santa Claus is not real; gasp. The horror of it all… You mean I’ve been lied too?? Oh not really, it was all in fun. Honestly I am not bitter; the story of Santa Claus is a great story about a man who truly tried to embody the ideals of Christ by giving his life to others. (though poetic license and folklore have made Santa a little larger than the real life St. Nicolas) Despite all the fictitious nonsense, I believe in that in regard to showing compassion and generosity to others, there should be a little Santa Claus in all of us. To me none of this is that big of a deal to me. Personally, I love the Christmas and Easter celebrations. To me the holidays in and of themselves do not represent the problem for me. It’s what we have done to the Holy Days that causes me to wonder about the spiritual validity of our celebrations. It just seems that our celebrations have been reduced more to a celebration of capitalism and materialistic opportunity than it is a religious celebration. We spend more time arguing over whether or not the crèche’ display in the public square is an infringement of the principle of separation of church and state, than we do Christmas caroling to shut-ins or performing acts of kindness for folks in our communities. We debate over whether it is appropriate to risk personal offense to someones civil rights by being so disrespectful as to wish them a Merry Christmas. As Much as I love Santa, ( And I do have real aspirations to be Santa.) The stories about him and other entertaining characters like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who stole Christmas, Fred Claus, And a deranged Elfman named Buddy sometimes overwhelm the true story of Jesus birth. Add to that the fact that Jesus was not really born on December 25th. coupled with the fact that the Wisemen and Shepherds never bowed together in worship at the manger, which was most likely not housed in a cozy little barn with clean fresh smelling hay, but more likely a damp filthy stable housed within a dark cold cave, and the truth really becomes even more muddled and obscure. Somehow we have taken the simple story of Christmas and disguised it so well that we hardly recognize it anymore. We have done the same sort of thing with Easter as well.
Some ungodly things have taken place on these Holy Days as well. It’s really become more about stuff than the message of the holiday. Todays parents and grandparents are under enormous pressure to make sure that they provide an acceptable Christmas for the children in their lives. Which means the appropriate amount of trendy and expensive gifts must be acquired in order to offer an acceptable sacrifice to our idols of personal possession and greed. So much so that many are willing to sell their soul upon the altars of credit debt. This is not to mention the confusion with Easter. my second favorite of all holidays when I was growing up. probably the significant amount of dental work in the past years of my life is due in large part to Christmas and Easter, and dare I say it Halloween. Easter egg hunts, baskets with solid chocolate bunnies, sugar encrusted marshmallow chickens, jelly beans and my favorites of the new generation of Easter candies, Cadbury eggs. All of this cozily cradled in a nest of green cellophane grass. I could never figure out how three days got crammed into Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday morning. The 72 hours that make up three days somehow didn’t fit. I often wondered why there were certain years when the Easter holidays and passover did not coincide. In these later years I have found out some other rather unsavory tidbits concerning this holiday.
What makes these days significant anyways?
These two holidays have several, significant issues in common. First, both holidays are close to an annual equinox of the sun. Christmas coincides with December 21st which is the winter solstice. It is also the shortest day of the year. Easter is set to coincide with the spring equinox and the beginning of harvest season. Christmas and Easter also have another common denominator that make these days significant as well. Both coincide with pagan festivals and celebrations. Christmas was originally celebrated by pagans as the Feast Of Saturnalia. This was a feast to honor the Roman deity Saturn. The festival was complete with a sacrifice in the temple of Saturn, a banquet in his honor, followed by personal gift giving. A festival atmosphere prevailed throughout the feast which began on December 17th and extended through December 23rd.
Easter was originally celebrated as a feast in honor of the goddess Ishtar. Ishtar was a particularly heinous Assyrian goddess. She was the goddess of War, love, sex, and fertility. Her festival took place at the beginning of the harvest season to assure fertility rights for their crops. Her festival, most likely involved ceremonial prostitution, and perhaps even human sacrifice. There are even some suggestions that Ishtar may have been the great whore of Babylon made reference to in the book of Revelation. As heinous as these festivals were, they are largely influential as determining factors in the choosing of the dates of our holy days. In order for the Church to deter the falling away of Christian converts on the anniversaries of these annual celebrations, the church offered alternative celebrations and feasts on these days of their own making. This practice is called syncretism. For many years syncretism provided useful mediums for the gospel. opportunities to talk about the miraculous birth’ life death and Resurrection, of Jesus our Messiah However in recent years the simple message of the birth, life, death, and resurrection, of our Savior somehow gets overwhelmed by the extreme materialism of capitalism running amuck in our nation. We have been for sometime losing the significance of our Holy Days in a post Christian world. The spirit of anti-Christ reacts vehemently against anything remotely Christian, citing separation of Church and state all the while embracing the tenets, traditions, and celebrations, of other world religions as culturally enriching. The concept of worship in these seasons of our joy is crowded to a back burner in the midst of myth and legend of elves reindeer, and furry little bunnies, eggs, and mounds of presents brought to greedy children who already have more possessions, and cavities, than they are able to manage. So what is to be done?
The Feasts of God
Several years ago as a part of my Grinchly grumbling about the Holidays and other government conspiracies meant to steal the joy of believers in this nation, I spoke to the Lord in prayer that we needed to have new holidays. At the time I had no idea what those days should be. Over the course of the next several years, the gentle prodding and, revelations of the Spirit through conversations with friends, my daily bible reading, and a few pertinent websites, I began to discover that God already had Holy Days and feasts of His own. Somewhere along the line, we the Church came to the place that we abandoned these days in favor of our own celebrations. Perhaps it was because we consider ourselves to be gentiles, rendering us at Liberty from the law. We are after all not under law, but under grace, right? Not so fast there partner… Before you answer that question consider this. Jesus himself said “I did not come to destroy the Law but to complete or fulfill it.” In his life and ministry Jesus also completed, or fulfilled all righteousness including attendance to the Feasts and fasts of God. As Christians we are at very least grafted in to the “holy nation” of Israel. Early Christendom, was very much Hebrew in its celebrations, festivals, feasts, and observances. It was not really until the time of Constantine when the emperor “Romanized” the Church by assimilating it into the empire. Furthermore the concept of not under law but under grace, does not render the law ineffective,or null and devoid of significance. Not under law signifies that we are free from the sacrificial system of the shedding of blood of bull, and goats as a means of salvation. Jesus Christ offered himself as the sacrifice for sin once and for all, by willingly shedding his life’s blood on Calvary’s cruel cross. When we apply the blood to the doorposts and lintel’s of our heart salvation’s work is completed in our hearts. The law however shows us how to live lives that are pleasing to God. It defines for us the parameters of living in blessing, and provides a warning for avoidance of the curse of sin. Included in the law are the observance of the feasts of God. Following each command for observance of these feasts the statement “This is to be a lasting ordinance unto you for all generations.” ( Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31,41) The ordinance is not until messiah comes, or only until the law is complete , or even until the eternal kingdom of God is established. It is to be a lasting ordinance forever. Indeed in Zechariah 14 immediately following the day of the Lord is an observance the feast of tabernacles.” Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King the Lord Almighty and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” A lasting ordinance forever. These feasts are not simply commands or statues given by God solely for remembrance, though each of them reminds us of God’s working in the past through and for his people. Each of the Feasts of God possesses a past, present, and future, element of God’s fulfillment of the feasts through the Messiah Jesus. The Feast of Tabernacles for example; Reminds us of Gods provision, guidance discipline and protection of the Israelite people during wilderness wanderings. It also reminds us of the abiding presence of God in the midst of His people. The people were to live in booths or tents or temporary dwellings for seven days, and to worship the Lord and celebrate his provision for the years bountiful harvest. ” Live in booths for seven days, all native-born Israelites are to live in booths,so that your descendants will know I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt I am the Lord your God.” ( Deuteronomy 23:42-43) There was fulfillment of this feast in the life of Jesus and John hints that the birth origins of the “Word of God” May well have taken place during the Feast of Tabernacles. He said ” And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) The phrase for made his dwelling among us can literally be translated pitched his tent among us, or even more astoundingly, Tabernacles among us. The Feast of tabernacles also foreshadows for us the great tribulation and how the provision of God will enable the faithful to endure to the end dwelling in tents and relying on the provision and guidance of God to bring them through the time of Jacobs trouble. In the past the Church has had observances that embodied the spirit of this feast. The puritans who crossed the sea in order to escape a tyrant King and religious persecution and established the Plymouth Colony, in an attempt to worship and praise God for his provision and deliverance, set aside a day of Thanksgiving and worship of God to bring Glory to Him For his goodness and faithfulness throughout their perilous journey. The camp meeting movement of the 1850’s also bore similarities to, and captured the spirit of the Feast of tabernacles as they took tents into the wilderness to worship God and to preach the gospel in temporary tabernacles, of tents, pavilions, brush arbors or picnic groves. Indeed the camp meeting movement was a major contributor to the holiness movement and the outpourings of the early 20th century. Many of the denominations find their origins rooted in a movement that embodied the spirit of the Feast of tabernacles. Many of these camps are still in existence in today though attendance and leadership support is slowly waning away. The president of the Nazarene Theological Seminary quoted a statistic saying that 60% of the Pastors who are serving the Church today received their call at a camp meeting.
For our Church for the past 14 years we have attempted to have a Feast of Tabernacles of sorts on our grounds. we dwell in tents and RV’s have services outside in an old revival tent. We bring in Worship teams and musicians, evangelists, and pastors, and special speakers . We have Chicken barbecue, burgers, Kosher hotdogs, great coffee, and one year even roasted a lamb. ( Which was more mutton than lamb; a tad on the gamey side.) We live outside for the weekend, and let me assure you in Upstate New York in early October, that can be a little dicey, one year we even had snow. We will be hosting this event again this year October 1-4 2015 This event has been a great blessing to us as a people. As we fellowship around picnic tables and campfires The Holy Spirit moves within our midst and blesses us with His presence. certainly The Feast of Tabernacles is a wonderful holiday given to the people of God. We look forward to this feast of ingathering each year until the Lord returns and Gathers His people to himself to forever be with the Lord. The feast of Tabernacles is referred to as the season of our joy! It has become for me just that a joyful time of celebration, refreshing and revival. A time when we as a Church have re-gathered after our hectic summer and return back together as a body. we as a Church continue to observe The Christian Observances, for they present opportunities for sharing the good news about the birth and life, death, resurrection and triumphant return of our Messiah Jesus. However we have also found great blessing in the observances of The Sabbaths of God. We invite you to join us this year at the Feast of Tabernacles October 1-4 2015 visit us @ corningnaz.weebly.com for information and details. We will continue this discussion in Holy Days part two.