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:
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
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:
I celebrated the Incarnation on the feast of Rosh Hashanah, 2012 in Raleigh and in Colorado Springs. It was the first time many had celebrated on the actual date when God became man. “Happy Birthday Jesus!” the cake read. It was by far the most creative cake I’ve ever seen. Look closely and you’ll see all the elements of the fall feast of the Lord called “The Feast of Trumpets (aka Rosh Hashannah).”
Kiddush (the wine & challah bread) from which we get Communion is in the upper right corner.
The 6-pointed star commonly called Magen David (Shield of David) although David had nothing to do with that.
2 candles in the upper left corner usually used by Jewish mothers to usher in the Sabbath and holidays.
A honey pot and sliced apples. Even though it is NOT the new year on the Lord’s calendar, the rabbis contend that it is a new year for the trees. This has developed over the years to become the ‘civil new year” so Jewish tradition dips the apples into honey with wishes for a happy and sweet new year.
A pomegranate – symbol of the fall harvest.
An open Torah scroll
Nothing was omitted! The table was laden with dishes from the fall harvest: apples, dates, figs, grapes, and lots of flowers. Everything was better than it looked and sadly I don’t have any recipes. This all took place in Colorado Springs under the direction of Lana Heightely (Woman with a Mission). To our surprise and delight when the word went out that we’d be celebrating the Incarnation of Messiah Jesus at sundown on September 16th , the response was so overwhelming another ministry asked to join us. So this blessed event was also the kick-off for a city wide prayer initiative. I actually started celebrating the week before with the Aglow chapter in Raleigh, NC. When we started singing our favorite “Christmas” hymns it felt as though the Holy Spirit was singing along with us. There was a sweetness and purity that I’d never experienced before. In my heart I felt God whispering, “Finally on the right day!” The experience repeated itself a week later in Colorado Springs. I am convinced that:
Messiah Jesus was born on God’s calendar – the first day of the seventh month. [For my reasons see previous blogs and my books listed below.]
Despite our efforts, celebrating the Incarnation on 25 December has become so polluted that Jesus is not glorified. People are just too busy and overwhelmed with traditions and expenditure of money.
The pagan roots of the 25 December celebration defile every attempt at purity despite our attempts to spiritualize.
The Christian world will fight to the finish before giving up their 25 December traditons.
Bottom line is that we celebrate the miracle of God’s love – Jesus the Messiah – whatever date we choose (or both!). **********
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehendit. Now it came to pass that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Soon the Lord saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not lie.”
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them. And (eventually) the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. And the Lord (had spoken) to Moses, saying: “Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.” And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. And the Lord (said) to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while Mary and Joseph were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.And on the first day of the seventh month she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (And as the priests were blowing the silver trumpets), suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.”
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” Yet, He grew up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He had no form or comeliness; and when we saw Him, there wasno beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own,and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Jesus whom God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.