We trust that all have had a wonderful Christmas, enjoying time with family and friends. Our heart goes to those who are separated from their families at this time. At least with modern technology, we were able to see and speak with our children in America as we enjoyed Christmas with our son in Scotland. Today in Britain is Boxing Day. According to Wikipedia, “Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a ‘Christmas box’, from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom…and other Commonwealth nations. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.”
As we read throughout the gospels at Jesus’ life, it is good to see that he took time to observe the Jewish national holidays. In John 7 we find Jesus going to Jerusalem for Passover, one of the three festivals we find in the Old Testament that all Jewish men were required to attend (the other two were Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles). But over the years, the Jews acquired other national holidays which were added to those that we find in the Law. In John 10 we find one of these.
“Then came the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Portico” (John 10:22-23 NET).
The Feast of Dedication is not found in the Old Testament. This celebration came about much later. It is held in December and celebrated the Maccabees rededication of the altar and reconsecration of the temple in 164 BC. This festival is still observed by Jews today and is known as “Hanukkah.”
From this we see that Jesus not only kept the holidays that the Old Testament required, but he also kept the national holidays that came about later in Jewish history. Jesus normally did not spend time in Jerusalem – he did his teaching primarily in the area around the Sea of Galilee. But we see him coming to Jerusalem for the festivals.
What does this tell us? We can know from Jesus’ example that it is not sinful to keep national holidays. Sometimes Christians struggle in knowing what to do at holiday times, even though this is addressed in the New Testament: “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:4-6).
Let us be thankful for holidays and times of rest – such are needed in our hectic lives. Let us not judge each other on whether or not we observe all holidays or observe them the same way. Let us always live and give thanks to God for what he has given us and not worry about what our brother does or does not do. In this way, we can “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV).
Readings for next week:
29 December – John 11
30 December – John 12
31 December – John 13
1 January – John 14
2 January – John 15