We all know the holiday season. We’ve been raised on it. For different people it means different things of course, but none the less it’s an all encompassing season for most English speakers and lands on all regions of the globe.
Here, where I live, it begins sometime around October 15th with Halloween and flows from one party and event to the next through the first or second week of January with the new year celebrations. To me, all of these celebrations merge into the holiday season of joy, thanksgiving, and general good will toward all men.
To be specific the traditions and ways we celebrate don’t merge. Once in a while we have a Christmas at Thanksgiving for ease of travel plans, or a New Years gift exchange with friends. Traditions are what differentiate one “time” from another. Traditions are what make the holidays memorable.
Evaluation of Action
Every year at the beginning of the advent season our pastor asks us to evaluate what we do for Christmas and why. He’s asking us to look into our motivations for the traditions, and challenging us to make sure that our profession of Christmas being about Jesus matches our practices. Today he asked this question (which sparked another question in my mind), “if God had given you tips on what to do to point to Christ this season, what cookie to bake or outfit to wear, you would want to do that, right?” Prompting the answer, “of course!”
I couldn’t help but think then, “If we really are answering a resounding yes, why do we celebrate Christmas universally? Why are we not celebrating the feasts that the Lord has given us to point us to these things?”
Bottom line, the short answer to this is, “because we do.”
Christians have been celebrating Christmas now for hundreds of years just as their deist forefathers did before them. They celebrated Saturn, and the winter solstice, and other things than Jesus, though.
Christmas began as a tradition about 300 AD probably as a synchronistic reaction to the culture around it and didn’t take its solid root it has now until the 1800’s.
Within the roots of our faith there lies Judaism. All of our beliefs today are an explanation of the fundamentals given to the Jews. Did they have a celebration of the coming of the Christ? You bet they did! It’s called Sukkot, or the Feast of Booths.
The heart of the feast is a remembrance of God bringing them out of Egypt, specifically his provision for them as they wandered. It’s a reminder to Gods people that he is the one that is bringing them through to their home forever with him someday.
The prophet Zachariah talks about the feast of booths when the messiah will come. It’s the climax of his prophecy, and in chapter 14 helps point to the reign of God’s forever king!
How significant that Jesus chose this feast to teach at in the temple as his time was drawing near. (John 7:14-53)
(Actually, John 7-8 and Zachariah 14 have some crazy similarities. Worth reading!)
If we can appreciate and embrace the connections of the Biblical feast and our modern celebration of Christmas we can have a good idea of what kinds of things God would rejoice in us doing to celebrate the coming of the messiah.
We know that Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the law. So we can partake of the “sacred assembly*” through “be(ing) joyful at your feast**” with “all who live in your towns**”. Remembering that “on that day holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the bells^” and “the cooking pots will be like the sacred bowls^.” And making sure that “each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.**”
It’s not really about whether we want to keep either the biblical feasts or Christmas. It’s about remembering the teaching that Christ gave at the feast to celebrate the coming messiah. When he spoke to the people at the temple he said throngs they could not well understand. Things like doing good in the name of the Lord on His days. Blessing and not cursing. Refusing to judge something as evil because it doesn’t follow our religious safety rules. They were ready to kill him then because he fulfilled their prophecies in ways they didn’t want him to. He said things like “I am” and came from a place like Galilee.
God has given us the greatest license for joy in any season through his work of grace! Whether June, October, March, or December! When we celebrate the coming of salvation let it be the most sacred of assemblies. And so I say to you a very…