Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Christian Calendar...

     I've made it into Lev. 23, and that chapter is a comprehensive list of the major holidays on the Jewish calendar;  some we're familiar with and some not so much.  Some were solemn, like Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and some were celebratory (the Feast of Trumpets and Booths).  But it got me thinking as a general principle... how come Christians under the New Covenant don't have holidays prescribed by God?
Charged with impersonating a Christian holiday!
     Now let's not be misunderstood... there are a couple prominent holidays celebrated by Christians in America (one with a fat guy in red and the other with a big bunny) that are attached to New Testament events;  I share my thoughts on one of those elsewhere, and you can apply some of those principles to the other too.  No, what I'm asking is why there's not a chapter in the New Testament with "...and on the tenth day of the ninth month, is the Lord's (fill in the blank)".  Here's the best I could come up with... I don't doubt there's more (and probably better!), but I think these points will help us understand and live out our place in this world:

1.  Type/Shadow vs. Reality:  One of the most important aspect of the Old Covenant is like that big red arrow on most maps in shopping centers ("You are here"!);  the sacrifices, the holiness code, the ritual cleanliness were all physical arrows, pointing to the spiritual realities of the Gospel.  God is really the first one to utilize pictoral representation (sorry, Bill Gates!);  when the Christ and the apostles preached to their first audiences, many of those folks knew and recognized Christ when preached from the O.T. (Acts 7:2ff, 8:35, 17:11, 18:28, etc.) because of the symbolism of the coming Messiah and His work.  The Israelites received the benefit of celebratory dramatizations, teaching spiritual truth, several times a year, but Christians in these last days have the blessing of God directly speaking through His Son (Heb 1:1-2); so no symbolic holiday is needed.

2.  The Temporal vs. the Eternal:  The best verse I could find on this is Heb 9:9-10:
"According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. "
      The realm of the Mosaic Law was the physical:  bodily cleanliness, animal atonement, physical separation from unbelievers, all of these show the tangible "this worldness" of the Law.  The problem is we are not solely physical creatures:  human beings are created in the "image of God";  surely this must include a spiritual component in our makeup, and thus a reckoning for the eternal consequences of our actions.  Those material exercises of the Old Covenant, even the most holy of holidays, were not effective in reconciling us to God.  "A former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect)..." (Heb 7:18-19), and so to continue weak celebrations pointing to something that's already come, or to introduce new ones, is counterproductive at best.

3.  The Purpose of the Old vs. the New

    So if the former commandment is weak and useless to save, what's it good for?  One of my formative influences loves to imagine the response of a young Jew learning the 600-plus Old Covenant laws that were required for righteousness and holiness before God: "Are you kidding?  There's no way that I can do all that!"  And that's the point... we are hopeless and helpless to please God in and of ourselves.  But all men are possessed of a subtle self-deception:  we naturally try to prove God wrong, and attain the unattainable.  The observation of the feasts on the Jewish calendar were, for the self-righteous in Christ's day, just another religious performance for hypocrites.  If anything, we should be thankful that Christ has seen fit to free us from rituals that can be misunderstood as righteousness.

     So in closing, let us celebrate our freedom in Christ, to observe or not observe any day, according to the dictates of our consciences, all to the glory of God.

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