Pressured to Celebrate the Feasts of the Lord

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:

  • Spirit
  • Truth
  • Humility
  • Love

May you enjoy a blessed holiday season, joanie


A simple but thorough resource for all the Levitical feasts, plus New Moon, Purim and Hanukkah.

To order:

I Hate Christmas!

“I hate this time of year!” “Me, too,” her friend replied as they walked into the synagogue. “I hate having Christmas shoved down my throat.” I knew exactly how the two women felt. I’d felt the same way. Every December, the entire world seemed to separate between Christians and Jews. As for me and my house, we felt isolated and rejected, as though we hadn’t been invited to a wonderful party. It didn’t matter to me that we didn’t believe in Jesus, who was at the center of all the fun. I wanted what Christmas seemed to be: family, fun, and PRESENTS! My family succumbed to my pleadings and we “did” Christmas. My brother and I made our wish lists and saved our pennies to find the perfect presents for others. Dad took us shopping to find the largest tree, which we quickly festooned with both hand-made and store-bought decorations. Of course, the tree was crowned with a Jewish star to identify it as a Hanukkah bush.

Eventually, however, we stopped the charade. Hanukkah was our holiday. I just didn’t know too much about it. Many people don’t know what Hanukkah is all about. I thought Hanukkah was about Judas Maccabee, the temple, and some oil. But now I know it’s much more than that. Hanukkah is about God’s blessing upon a faithful remnant that would not compromise its faith. For all the wrong reasons, my family compromised their beliefs to be just like the world. The message of Hanukkah challenges us to stand firm in and for the name of the Lord Jesus despite personal costs and consequences. [Excerpted from Celebrate Jesus!]

For more information see Joanie’s books:

Celebrate Jesus! The Christian Perspective of the Biblical  Feasts

Celebrate God’s Love: Christmas/Hanukkah: Fact & Fiction

Lighting the Menorah

The traditional celebration of Hanukkah includes lighting a candle each of the eight nights of the holiday. A special 9 branch candelabra (called a Hanukkiah) is used.


Most people explain the eight candles to celebrate a miracle that didn’t happen.  The legend is that when the Macabees came to cleanse the Temple, there was only enough oil to light the Temple Menorah for one day.  BUT, miraculously the oil lasted for eight days.  Hence the eight days of Hanukkah.

But the real miracle is the victory that God gave the small Jewish army over the powerful Greek army.

Of course, the miraculous victory and the dedication of the cleansed Temple had to be celebrated.  The Jews hoped the temple would be ready to be dedicated on the same holiday that the first and second Temples were dedicated – the Feast of Tabernacles, or in Hebrew Succot.  But the Temple wasn’t ready.  So they created another holiday of dedication but patterned it after Succot.

The new holiday was named, “Succot of Cislev” the winter month correlating to December on the Gregorian calendar.

According to Leviticus 23, Succot was to be celebrated for 8 days…hence the eight days of Hanukkah.


Why the candles?  By the time of Zechariah the Feast of Tabernacles was associated with the coming of the Messianic Kingdom where there would be everlasting light (Zech.14:6-7) so giant candelabras were lit around Jerusalem.  Hence the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah!

The ninth candle is called Shamos or Servant. This candle is lit first and then lights all the others. Here are two very practicial ways to celebrate Jesus through the holiday of Hanukkah.

So is there an application of the Hanukkah menorah to the One New Man?


When we are lit by the flame of God’s love, the light of Jesus ignites the other fruits of the Holy Spirit as we become the fully lit candelabra of God, shedding His light and love into the dark world:

  • Love releases joy;
  • Joy releases peace;
  • Peace releases longsuffering;
  • Longsuffering releases kindness;
  • Kindness releases goodness;
  • Goodness releases faithfulness;
  • Faithfulness releases gentleness;
  • Gentleness releases self–control.


Hanukkah is an excellent time to remember that YOU are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Your body is His dwelling place. Hanukkah gives us a unique opportunity to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” and “to lay aside every sin and weight.”

  • Mouth: Romans 10:10; Isaiah 49:2
  • Lips: Psalm 34:13
  • Tongue: Proverbs 27:2; Psalm 145:21
  • Heart: Deuteronomy 6:5
  • Mind: Isaiah 26:3
  • Feet: Romans 10:15
  • Ears: Proverbs 23:12; Psalm 40:6
  • Eyes: Ephesians 1:18; Psalm 119:37

For more information see Joanie’s books:

Celebrate Jesus! The Christian Perspective of the Biblical  Feasts

Celebrate God’s Love: Christmas/Hanukkah: Fact & Fiction

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