Not long after I start a spiritual discussion with a Jewish friend, I’m asked two questions:
- Are you Christian or Jewish? I answer, YES
- What holidays do you celebrate… Christmas or Passover? I answer, ALL of them!
Our dialogue was confusing because I was quoting the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, clearly the Jewish Bible, BUT I was talking abut Jesus…talking about Him in a Jewish framework yet some of the things I was saying sounded, well, so “Christian.”
I just didn’t fit into the mold.
Which mold….Jewish or Christian?
An important Definition
Here a definition is order, a definition based on perceptions. Everything we hear is processed through our personal grids and perceptions. That’s why communication is often so difficult.
We think we’re being clear, but the hearer is hearing something completely different!
Our perceptions, whether true or not —are made through:
- Religious bias
So what is the perception of my hearer?
This will be shocking to most of you —the perception of most Jewish people is that “Christian” is synonymous with Gentile…Let that sink in…“Christian” is synonymous with Gentile. So, if a gentile = Christian, then billy graham, the pope and hitler…all Gentiles….were all Christian!
Hence the confusion and the questions.
So not receiving a precise answer to the first question, (was I Jewish or Christian?) the second question was asked: “Did I celebrate Passover or Christmas? Thus my answer – that I celebrate all of them was even more confusing.
Friends, my answers kept me out of the box….the mold the questioner was trying to put me into. In his perception, holidays were either Jewish or Christian! The fact that Jesus, a Jew, celebrated the feasts was irrelevant to my friend.
The Holidays we celebrate emphasize the confusion.
Christmas cf Hanukkah: Jews don’t celebrate Christmas and Christians don’t celebrate Hanukkah (although Jesus did!)
Passover cf Resurrection: Jews certainly don’t celebrate Easter (Resurrection) which is on a Jewish holiday and Christians rarely celebrate Passover (again although Jesus did)
Interestingly, more and more Gentile Christians are conducting a Passover service, but rarely is it an annual celebration. And some recognize Hanukkah but focus on a legend about oil rather than the historical truth.
Jewish followers of Jesus?
What about Jewish followers of Jesus? Well that’s an issue strongly being debated to this day.
When I was a new follower of Yeshua, I was confronted about this issue, first from my Gentile pastor and later from my Jewish pastor. My Gentile pastor couldn’t understand what I wanted to do for the Day of Atonement when Jesus did it all (meaning provided atonement.)
I explained, “Pastor that’s exactly WHY I want to celebrate…All my life I sat in synagogue repenting for sins done or imagined and never knew if I’d be forgiven. Now that I know i am forgiven, how can I NOT celebrate Jesus on the Day of Atonement?”
And what about Christmas???
As a child, my family loved Christmas. Our celebration had noting to do with Jesus, it was just a time when the family got together.
Yes we had a tree and Daddy made sure that the rabbi who lived across the street couldn’t see it!
We loved hanging the ornaments…but of course we started with the Star of David so we could call it a Hanukkah bush.
And yes we celebrated Hanukkah too. Best of both worlds.
Eventually we stopped doing Christmas. It was the year by brother was bar-mitzvah and we were all convicted that as Jews we shouldn’t be associated with anything “Christian.
BUT when I became a follower of Christ, I was so eager to celebrate His birth. I could finally celebrate Christmas….really celebrate Jesus! My favorite Christmas song, actually the prayer of my heart was and is
O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice rejoice Immanuel HAS come to thee o Israel”
That first Christmas was not quite what imagined (or hoped) it would be, but I realized that traditions need not divide us when Christ is preeminent. We can learn so much from each other when we worship Him in
Then I looked forward to celebrating the next holidays (Purim & passover) with my Gentile brethren. But to my shock and sadness, they weren’t interested. Actually the pastor was surprised that I even wanted to.
- The One New Man didn’t celebrate Jesus through those holidays….Why not?
- The One New Man. Aka the church
- The one new man for whom Jesus prayed and died for
- The one new man of Jews and Gentiles, redeemed by God’s grace through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Didn’t celebrate Jesus?
Was it because….yes I’m sure it was….. because for thousands of years these feasts have been identified as “Jewish feasts” and not “the feasts of the Lord.”
As time went on I discovered the terrible breach in the foundation of the church that was designed to be built on the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apostles. And nothing made that breach more obvious than the holidays we celebrated. Jewish Believers had their celebrations; and the Gentile Believers had theirs.
But the holidays had a more divisive impact than in just the Body. Celebrating the feasts even caused divisions in families and confusion in the hearts of the Believers themselves.
Here is a letter i received:
It just seems that things have been really hard and confusing ever since we started to try and learn more about observing a Biblical Sabbath. My older kids (girls 12 and 15) have especially been confused. We have our friends who make it seem like even saying the word “Christmas”, yet alone celebrating any part of it, is an unpardonable sin. They have gone as far as to say that they think those who are not following Torah may not make it to heaven.
My thought then is why did Jesus have to come and die for us?
I love God and want to do what He wants me to do. I also want to teach my children the right way to live ( I also have 2 boys- 7 and 9). Obviously I am still confused about a lot. Like I said, I want to follow God and do what He wants but at times things feel so legalistic and rigid. LG
If that makes my heart break, how does God feel? Here’s a story about a precious friend ….Mary
Mary was the daughter of a pastor so spent her entire life in church….a gentile church. She loved the celebrations I hosted and got my feast book as soon as it was published. Then several years ago she started attending a Messianic congregation with the intention of “learning enough to share with my pastor.”
Two years to “learn enough?” What was to learn that took so long?
I later discovered the problem was that she was told she had to pray certain prayers and follow Jewish traditions outlined by the Messianic Rabbi (note the change of my vocabulary: Congregation not church, Rabbi not pastor.)
As we talked she threw off the shackles and simply celebrated Jesus! The WHO not the HOW of the feasts.
Celebrating Jesus can help repair the breach
Friends, celebrating the feasts need not exacerbate the breach. In fact, I contend that nothing can repair that breach and unite the One New Man more than celebrating Jesus through the feasts of the Lord! So let’s start at the beginning.
What does the Bible say about the feasts? As I said before, we err when we refer to Biblical holidays as “Jewish Feasts” and yet God calls them HIS feasts – the feasts of the Kingdom.
“But” you say. “God gave them to Israel, the Jewish people.” Yes, He did because:
- You are my witnesses that a people yet unborn will know Me (Isaiah 43:10)
- Gave a testimony in Israel (ps 78:5-7)
That they might know
God designed the feasts and celebrations:
- Remember His mighty acts of deliverance
- Reveal His character
- Recognize Jesus!!!
- Reflect on the significance of each feast to my life
Today there is a lot of attention on the “restoration” of all things” necessary before Christ returns. While I question the application of that verse, I must if part of that restoration might include restoring the feasts to the church? hmmm
So to answer the question can (not should) Gentiles celebrate God’s feasts I ask another question:
Is there a valid reason why not?
Is there a page in our Bibles that does not in some way point to Jesus? And of course every feast mentioned was fulfilled by His life and ministry:
- Early ministry (Savior)
- Death, burial, resurrection
- Current ministry (Scape goat and high priest)
- Future ministry (King of all kings)
So “Yes Church, yes celebrate Jesus through the Lord’s feasts….His feasts.”
Why did the Gentiles who were worshipping the Jewish Messiah stop celebrating Him through His feasts?And why did Jewish Believers not put the new wine into new wine skins but instead try to Judaize others?
But the larger question we need to ask is….. what now?
Can we worship our savior and enjoy each other’s traditions learning and embrace in each other?
Sure we can!
So next we’ll take a quick look back at the sad history of the breach, then look up to learn about the feasts and then look forward as we celebrate Jesus!
An excellent resource for the beginner or the experienced: