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Feasts, festivals and holidays

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

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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5 thoughts on “Feasts, festivals and holidays

  1. John said that Jesus walked in the temple but does not tell us that He was observing the festival. According to one website I visited, Jesus was often seen in that area of the temple.
    I think one reason for Him being at the festivals when not required by Mosaic Law is that it is easier to spread His word to the Jews at those times.
    As for observing Christmas, since it is based in part on pagan worship and we are not instructed to observe the day by the Bible, I find it hard to celebrate the holiday. As Christians we have to be an example to the rest of the world and not act like the denominational churches do when it comes to religious holidays like Christmas and Easter.

    1. Today we are hard pressed to connect Christmas with pagan worship. Just like it being easier to share word with the Jews that you mentioned, it is also easier to spread the Gospel of Christ with people during these holiday seasons. I have spent Christmas in five countries and they are all the same during that season. People are more open an more receptive around the world. Even though we don’t know exactly when Christ was born let us take advantage of every opportunity to share the good news.

      1. Ed,
        I am glad that you can travel to different countries and spread the Gospel to other people during the holidays. Doing that is the same thing that Paul did as he traveled around.
        As far as Christmas and Easter go, their origins go back to the Catholic church. When they went out spreading the Gospel to the world they would go to new places and make converts and then incorporate the pagan worship into the Catholic church. That is how those two holidays came about. You can check it out online for yourself if you need proof. One book to look at is The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop which you can download for free. It is not that hard to research those holidays on the internet. But if anyone wants to do like the rest of the religious world and celebrate them they will answer for it not me. I say that because I don’t see any example of christians observing those two holidays in the New Testament.

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