Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas follow up - Part 2

Sometimes the simplest phrase catches my attention and sends me searching for new information.  Talking about the origins of Christmas, it was this sentence:  "For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only."  I realized I didn't actually know what a religious festival was or how it was observed.  Paraphrasing slightly on Wikipedia's definition... a religious festival is a time of special importance marked by adherents to that religion and commonly celebrated on recurring cycles in a calendar year or lunar calendar.

That doesn't tell me much.  So I started asking questions of my dear friend, and practicing Messianic Jew, Sheila Stevens.  In simplest terms, I gleaned from that conversation that the Sabbath is perhaps the most common Jewish festival day.  It is marked by rest from worldly work, prayer, feasting, quiet worship, and family time.  Other holidays are marked with specific prayers and rituals and designated meals in response to God's commandments in the Torah (which the Christian world knows as the first 5 books of the Bible).

If you want to know more about the Jewish feasts and traditions, here are some links Sheila provided that you'll find interesting to explore:

As a practicing Christian, I don't feel bound to celebrate these Levitical feast days of Israel.  Consider Paul's words to the people of Colossius:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 KJV
While I don't feel bound to celebrate, I do think there is value in studying the Jewish feasts as a way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Christ's death, resurrection and promised Second Coming.  It will take much study and soul-searching thought for me to decide, within myself, if the symbology someone else attaches to an item has any bearing on me.   Right now I don't know what I'm going to do about Christmas either this year or in the future.  But I'm asking questions like what festivals am I really celebrating?  Who am I celebrating?  How will I choose to celebrate?  And perhaps even more importantly, why am I doing it?

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