Why Celebrate the Biblical Feasts and Festivals?
What is a Gentile Christian family doing affixing mezuzot and celebrating Sukkot, or any of the traditional Jewish Holy Days for that matter? That is a very good question.
Unlike most of the traditional "Christian" holidays which have their origins in paganism, all of the traditional Jewish holidays and the practice of placing mezuzahs have their origins in the Bible or Apocrypha. Most of them were commanded by G-d in Leviticus. Our L-rd Y'shua celebrated the Jewish holidays when He was a man on earth. Lastly, none of the Jewish Feasts have been nearly as commercialized as the Christian holidays of Christmas, and recently, Easter.
Are those enough reasons for a Christian, especially a Gentile Christian, to celebrate these holidays? In one word --- no. Though most of the holidays are commanded to be celebrated, Christians are no longer under the law. Paul says, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the L-rd..." (Rom. 14:5-6a, NIV, emphasis added) It is clear that Christians, be they Gentile or Jew, are relieved from the requirements to celebrate the Biblical Feasts. Also, like even many "Christian" practices, the Jewish Feasts have changed greatly over the years. Sages have interpreted and reinterpreted the requirements to celebrating the holidays. Extra-biblical rules have been heaped upon rules, making it difficult to celebrate the holidays "properly." We are saved only by grace through faith, not by "earning Brownie points" by observing feasts and festivals or performing any other "good work." These in and of themselves are enough to cause any Believer to pause when considering celebrating. Another caution should be noted. When one decides to participate in some Jewish/Biblical practices, he needs to guard against pride, a pride that places himself over those who he considers "less spiritual" who do not celebrate.
So, what benefit is there to a Christian celebrating Sukkot, Passover, Hannukah, or any other feast? The only reason any Christian should consider celebrating would be because he feels lead of the L-rd to do so. If G-d says to celebrate, then you should do so. It sounds so simplistic, but is so true. It was under this framework that the Bartels family began having Passover Seders several years ago, and a few years later, started celebrating Sukkot. The family began affixing mezuzot (mezuzahs) to our doorposts around the same time we started celebrating Passover.
The spiritual benefits of being lead to celebrate, and following through with that leading, can be phenomenal. Each holiday concentrates on one or more attributes and actions of G-d, allowing us to contemplate them in greater detail and depth than would normally be accomplished in a single day or week. Passover concentrates on our sinfulness and how it enslaves us. G-d freed us through the sacrifice of His Lamb. Sukkot concentrates on a handful of attributes --- G-d as provider and refuge, our anticipation of His coming kingdom, and the joy we have in being His children. These holidays require some preparation as well as time to stop and worship, praise, pray to, and contemplate the Almighty. Placing mezuzot on doorposts reminds us that G-d's word should be affixed to our hearts. Great insight and spiritual growth must occur.
Once an individual or family decides to celebrate one or more of the Jewish holidays, the decision must be made as to how to go about doing it. Alas, this can be just as difficult as the decision to celebrate in the first place. The Bartels family has decided to research extensively the holiday in question. Our primary source is the Bible. We also read books and web sites on the topic and pick and choose aspects that can be supported from the Bible or may have the potential for spiritual growth. Occasionally attending services at a Messianic Jewish congretation also helps us know and understand more about Jewish traditions. About various practices we ask --- "What does doing this mean for us as believers in Y'shua?" "Does the L-rd want us to do things this or some other way?" Inevitably the first year's celebration is much simplified. During the holiday, as insights are gained and spiritual growth happens, as well as discovering what works and what does not, changes are made for the next year. After a few years or so, we have found the ways that work best and only minor changes are made after that.
No one should worry about "getting it right" the first time. Just as our L-rd has lead you to celebrate (or not), He will also lead you in how to do it. It will be a growth process, one full of grace, awe, wonder, and power. It is truly amazing to see how G-d can work through the preparations as well as the actual holiday. What I have also found is that the first year's celebration, while usually the "weakest" by human standards, is the most powerful spiritually. It is like my Heavenly Father has said, "Yes! I have wanted you to do this for a while and I am so glad you are now doing it."
The purpose of my writing this introduction as well as the pages on Passover and Sukkot is to give the reader a glimpse of our family's spiritual journey concerning these holidays as well as serve as a guide to other Believers who may decide to celebrate the Feasts themselves.
To the glory of His holy Name now and forever!
Page last modified February 1, 2005.
Comments, corrections, or suggestions may be directed to the page author, Mary-Frances Bartels