Christianity 201

May 15, 2021

Jewish Feasts, The Christian Calendar, Secular Holidays

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.” – Exodus 12:14 NLT

May, June and July offer a concentration of holidays in the U.S. and Canada, and I suspect Europeans also have days which take advantage of the nicer weather. To what degree the pandemic will affect our ability to gather together remains to be seen, but we do mark these days with, at the very least, a day off work.

For Christians, we also — to varying degrees depending on our denomination — follow the Christian liturgical calendar as well, but our understanding of the world that Jesus, the incarnate second person of the Trinity, inhabited during his short stay among us also included a celebration of the Jewish festivals, and many of those were actually pointing to Him.

First stop for the Christian is to understand our Jewish roots, and in particular the Feast Days and also, as the lower section of the chart below shows, their fulfillment in the New Testament:

Source: God’s Calendar.

In searching, I came across several articles by a group called United Church of God, which celebrates these Feasts but doesn’t do Christmas or Easter. (Jehovah’s Witnesses fall into this category as well.) I don’t know much about this group, but I found this comment challenging:

Jesus Christ celebrated seven festivals every year that most Christians today can’t even name, yet He is at the core of all of them.

But when it comes to the special days on the secular calendar, one article on another site asked the question, “Should you observe God’s holy days or demonic holidays?” This rather provocative approach accomplishes little. We don’t live in a theocratic society as did the Jewish people. You may not celebrate those points on the calendar, but probably the place where you work will be closed for the day. Does the modern, secular Christmas detract from the Biblical story of incarnation? Absolutely, but we can also use the day as a talking point to inform our non-churched friends and neighbors. Similarly, we can share with them why the secular symbols of Easter — eggs and rabbits — are a shadow of the story of life we find in the resurrection.

One of the arguments used by those who oppose secular holidays, and secularized Christian holidays is that it constitutes adding to the calendar God has already given. Two verses in Deuteronomy are quoted:

Don’t add anything to the word that I am commanding you, and don’t take anything away from it. Instead, keep the commands of the Lord your God that I am commanding all of you. (4:2, CEV)

Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don’t add to it; don’t subtract from it. (12:14, MSG)

Again, remember these verses are from the Pentateuch. These books teach us the ways of God and God’s dealing with humankind, but they also encode a law we are no longer under.

Those from liturgical churches however do have Evangelicals at an advantage. In the Biblical panorama of the church calendar we see things which are often missed in our modern churches. It might do some good to swap out the names Christmas and Easter to look more closely at “Epiphany” or “Resurrection Sunday.” [For a really good look at this calendar check out the image accompanying this article.]

Another example: We just passed Ascension Day on Thursday. Writing on Friday at DailyEncouragement.net, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber noted:

In most of Christendom this day doesn’t have nearly the emphasis as other notable events in our Lord’s earthly life such as His birth, death, resurrection or Day of Pentecost which followed His Ascension by 10 days. I wonder how many readers even recalled that yesterday was Ascension Day prior to reading today’s message?

The old order communities of faith in our area place great emphasis on this holy day. As we traveled through that part of the county yesterday we noted that many of the stores and businesses are closed on Ascension Day with special services being held.

Many Christians express their faith in creeds and a line in the Apostle’s Creed states, “He ascended into heaven”. Other churches have formal statements of doctrine and this truth is expressed as in a statement such as “in His ascension to the right hand of the Father”.

Did you know that Thursday was Ascension Day? I know that I never gave it a moment’s thought. Yet in a few days, Americans will both celebrate and remember the nation’s military history with Memorial Day. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s important to remember the people who paved the way for our liberty and freedom. But I think it’s sad that, myself included, an important day on the church calendar should pass without notice…

…In preparing this I realized there is a place of balance to be found here between our spiritual worship and our civic obligations; and especially between our First Testament history and our Second Testament life under grace. Verses can easily be pulled out to randomly support particular positions. With respect to the Law, I think this one is helpful:

NLT Gal 4:10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.

 

 

 

 

July 15, 2017

Types of Observance

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

This article may look familiar to some of you. I was asked to write something for our local newspaper on very, very short notice; so I took an article which had appeared here and readjusted it to reach a wider audience. I’ve also made some adjustments here.

The 4th of July. My birthday. Trinity Sunday. Each one of these represents a different type of observance – one follows the civic calendar, one is a day that is personal to my immediate family and the last is part of the liturgical calendar which begins a new cycle at Advent and is now in what is called the ordinary time period.

For the people of Israel who were often foreigners in a strange land, the civic calendar of their surrounding neighbours would have meant very little. Theirs was a theocracy and their religious holidays were, as the root of the word suggests, holy days. Their feast days were remembrances of pivotal moments in their history, such as Passover, where God provided for them.

We do not have any synagogues in our community that I am aware of and it would be easy to be dismissive of the Jewish feasts as not applying to people here, but I think it’s important for us as Christians to remember that Jesus celebrated seven festivals every year which most Christians can’t even name yet each of them is central to His own narrative.

The Christian calendar has been more faithfully observed by Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, the United Church and Roman Catholics. Only recently have we seen an increased awareness among evangelicals of Advent and Lent. This yearly cycle anchors us more solidly in the gospel story and keeps us focused on Christ.

Think about Ascension Day. Many of us can repeat the line “he ascended into heaven” from the Apostles’ Creed but often little attention is paid to what it means — that Jesus’ earthly incarnation ended and he now sits at the right hand of God.

In writing to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that our faith does not consist in the keeping of special days.

You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years.  I fear for you…   Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles — free from those laws.  – NLT Gal 4:10-12

The idea of days of obligation is not found in Scripture. We aren’t Christians because we go to church – we go to church because we are Christians.

On the other hand, as Christians nothing stops us from enjoying the celebration of birthdays and events on the civic calendar as long as these things don’t distract us from our Old Testament and New Testament spiritual roots.

An illustration of the Christian calendar:

May 29, 2017

Holy Days and Holidays

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.” – Exodus 12:14 NLT

Today, our American readers have a national holiday, Memorial Day. I started thinking about this in the context of writing something here, and there is wealth of material available online on this topic.

First stop for the Christian is to understand our Jewish roots, and in particular the Feast Days and also, as the lower section of the chart below shows, their fulfillment in the New Testament:

Source: God’s Calendar.

In searching, I came across several articles by a group called United Church of God, which celebrates these Feasts but doesn’t do Christmas or Easter. (Jehovah’s Witnesses fall into this category as well.) I don’t know much about this group, but I found this comment challenging:

Jesus Christ celebrated seven festivals every year that most Christians today can’t even name, yet He is at the core of all of them.

But one article on another site — I won’t link to this one — asked the question, “Should you observe God’s holy days or demonic holidays?” This rather provocative approach accomplishes little. We don’t live in a theocratic society as did the Jewish people. You may not celebrate those points on the calendar, but probably the place where you work will be closed for the day. Does the modern, secular Christmas detract from the Biblical story of incarnation? Absolutely, but we can also use the day as a talking point to inform our non-churched friends and neighbors. Similarly, we can share with them why the secular symbols of Easter — eggs and rabbits — are a shadow of the story of life we find in the resurrection.

One of the arguments used by those who oppose secular holidays, and secularized Christian holidays is that it constitutes adding to the calendar God has already given. Two verses in Deuteronomy are quoted:

Don’t add anything to the word that I am commanding you, and don’t take anything away from it. Instead, keep the commands of the Lord your God that I am commanding all of you.  (4:2, CEV)

Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don’t add to it; don’t subtract from it. (12:14, MSG)

Again, remember these verses are from the Pentateuch. These books teach us the ways of God and God’s dealing with humankind, but they also encode a law we are no longer under.

Those from liturgical churches however do have Evangelicals at an advantage. In the Biblical panorama of the church calendar we see things which are often missed in our modern churches. It might do some good to swap out the names Christmas and Easter to look more closely at “Epiphany” or “Resurrection Sunday.”

Another example: We just passed Ascension Day on Thursday. Writing on Friday at DailyEncouragement.net, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber noted:

In most of Christendom this day doesn’t have nearly the emphasis as other notable events in our Lord’s earthly life such as His birth, death, resurrection or Day of Pentecost which followed His Ascension by 10 days. I wonder how many readers even recalled that yesterday was Ascension Day prior to reading today’s message?

The old order communities of faith in our area place great emphasis on this holy day. As we traveled through that part of the county yesterday we noted that many of the stores and businesses are closed on Ascension Day with special services being held.

Many Christians express their faith in creeds and a line in the Apostle’s Creed states, “He ascended into heaven”. Other churches have formal statements of doctrine and this truth is expressed as in a statement such as “in His ascension to the right hand of the Father”.

Did you know that Thursday was Ascension Day? I know that I never gave it a moment’s thought. Yet today, Americans will both celebrate and remember the nation’s military history with Memorial Day. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s important to remember the people who paved the way for our liberty and freedom. But I think it’s sad that, myself included, an important day on the church calendar should pass without notice…

…In preparing this I realized there is a place of balance to be found here between our spiritual worship and our civic obligations; and especially between our First Testament history and our Second Testament life under grace. Verses can easily be pulled out to randomly support particular positions. With respect to the Law, I think this one is helpful:

NLT Gal 4:10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.