Friends pressure friends to celebrate or not to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. Sadly rather than celebrating Jesus in the feasts with the freedom of the Holy Spirit, there is a growing tendency to make observance of the feasts more of a burden than a celebration. The following is my correspondence with a woman who was feeling pain and confusion.
… 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? No man can completely follow Torah. There is so much in it to ponder and what still applies today (tattoos, piercings, cutting of hair, mixed fabrics) ??? 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). Our friends also think we shouldn’t do any sports or hikes or anything on the Sabbath. I think, why would it be wrong to have family time, out in nature, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? Is the Sabbath really totally denying oneself of any personal enjoyment? To me, playing softball on a Friday night is totally enjoyable, and not work at all, but is it wrong? Obviously I am still confused about a lot. Sorry for my ramblings. Like I said, I want to follow God and do what He wants but at times things feel so legalistic and rigid. LG
Here is my reply:
Thank you for the privilege of answering this question. I have several comments. 1) Anyone who tries to make you feel second class or “wrong” is not moving in the Spirit of God’s love and grace. Stand firm against any spirit of religiosity. Paul makes it clear that we are not to consider one day as more important. That said…
2) I do think there is a blessing in celebrating the feasts that the Lord has given us. Certainly the Sabbath is the top of His list as He’s given us 52 times to enjoy the weekly Sabbath, not to mention all the other Sabbath days. Being in the States, keeping the Sabbath is a challenge, but I do what I can…REST…without phone or computer. Then I love celebrating the resurrection on Sunday. That said….
I like to start Sabbath by being with friends for a Friday night Sabbath dinner. (Most Jewish celebrations revolve around food! Furthermore I would encourage anything that breaks the routine and stress of the week and enables you to quiet your body, soul and spirit. The issue is REST…which the Bible interprets for us as “no work.” Of course the caution here is that we can get too busy with fun activities. God’s design works best when given a chance to be replenished.’
3) Christmas is a unique holiday. We know that Jesus wasn’t born in December and we know the pagan roots of the holiday. I used to celebrate the Incarnation (and called it that) when I first went to Israel. After a few years though my friends lost interest. Being in the States, I find I’m enjoying the decorations and festivities, although I don’t really partake except to join friends for dinner. I give presents earlier, on Thanksgiving or Hanukkah. But I do enjoy the tree which my housemate puts up. So I have a rather special situation – enjoying without the doing. But after a few years NOT celebrating the Incarnation in Israel, I’m slowly reintroducing bits and pieces to stimulate conversations with my neighbors.
I’m taking a middle of the road position. What is important is being obedient to what God is telling you and doing so with grace and humility towards others.
Unity amid diversity is my passion. I don’t even use the expression “Hebraic roots” as that tends to isolate or elevate one group of people. The Bible talks about God being our roots. I like to think of the Old Testament as the preparation for the Kingdom. Therefore the feasts and celebrations are Kingdom roots not Hebraic or Jewish. That approach might help you with your decisions and with your friends.
I don’t specifically talk about Christmas in my Celebrate Jesus! but I do spend time on dealing with the issue of the Kingdom. You might also be interested in the new booklet: Celebrate God’s Love, Hanukkah and Christmas, Fact or Fiction.
The bottom line of the various expressions of worship is to worship the Lord in:
May you enjoy a blessed holiday season, joanie