Celebrating Biblical Feasts as a Christian
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
First of all, I can think of no better way to expand your ability to see what on earth Jesus was all about than looking back to the beginning of time. Depending on your worldview, you might argue with the Genesis account of creation but let’s assume for the sake of this article that you are ok with an intelligently designed universe. Moving from there, we see God select a place (“the Promised Land”, a geographic area surrounding present day Jerusalem) and a specific man (Abraham) from which to build a family and ultimately a nation (Israel).
From this nation, the whole world was going to hear about LIFE. Real, awesome, amazing life! Not rules for life, but best practices. You can read these guidelines for success (my own term) in Deuteronomy. They are fascinating and perplexing. I’m ok with that. I’ve chosen to believe that Jesus followed them and lived them to his best ability and I will too. (Not perfectly, but that’s ok, that’s not really the point either. Life just goes better when I do.)
Just to make a clean point here, in no way does looking to these guidelines for success mean that I am becoming a legalistic junkie. Actually, people in all situations LOVE knowing the rules and following them and actively or subconsciously punish others who don’t follow them too. I think this is part of being a human: herd mentality and groupthink and all that. I’ve seen many Christians make up rules for their lives. Some examples from the church where I spent my childhood and teen years are:
A real Christian reads his Bible every day
A real Christian raises her hands in a musical worship setting
A real Christian speaks in tongues after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit
A real Christian fasts from food occasionally
Whether you agree or not with these, they were somehow loosely based on the Bible. My realization over the last few years that the safest place to rest on “rules” is not from someone’s man-made decrees (i.e. “women should wear dresses only”) but from God’s literal directions. I in faith choose to believe that those directions are from the Creator of Life, for my benefit and my health and my relational health…I can reject them, but I will adopt some other best practices because that’s what people do. I ask myself, “Why not just go with these ancient ones that Jesus lived?” Then I can live life against that backdrop and hold up values and thoughts and sermons and ideas and assess where they fit and if they are valuable and true.
One thing that has helped me in explaining these shifting thoughts to my concerned family and friends (“You don’t eat bacon anymore? Whaaaat?”) is by sharing what my family and I ARE doing. No, we don’t eat bacon but we suuuuure do enjoy a 24 hour Sabbath every weekend. It’s been amazing to have a break every 7 days…almost, like…you know, people might function best when they rest…almost like relationships might thrive when you take time for each other and not just work all the live-long day. (Like I used to!)
So to get to the point of this post, I want to share what we’re doing that is so life-giving for our family. We’re not perfect at this but it’s been awesome the last few years. We celebrate the Biblical feasts! Ya! More parties is always a great thing! (Well, and one sober day that ends with a party.)
There are eight feasts God commands His people to keep.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Feast of FirstFruits
and Pentecost or Shavuot
Feast of Trumpets
Day of Atonement
and Feast of Tabernacles
The 8th feast is the weekly Sabbath, running from Friday evening to Saturday evening.
We have been celebrating these with baby-steps, with very small changes that have been making a big impact in our family culture.
In a brief overview, I’ll share what we are doing for each and you’ll notice that it’s not perfect but we sure are enjoying the effort and will continue to refine our celebration to reflect God’s JOY in His creation!
Passover: we invite friends and family over for a seder meal. I make the food myself because I love to cook but I hire some friends to come do all the serving and waiting on tables because a seder is long and I want to enjoy the experience and not be running back and forth to the kitchen making sure everything is good. Plus, after a 4 hour meal, it’s awesome to walk into the kitchen and see the dishes done and floor swept! Now we’re talking! My husband is amazing at leading the group through the Haggadah (order of service) with lots of scriptures read by everyone around the table, songs sung, etc. We order a Haggadah for each person so everyone has a playbook.
Feast of Unleavened Bread: This starts immediately from Passover and you just don’t eat anything with yeast in it. It’s kind of lame unless you can recall the reason why – because God wants us to remember the flight out of Egypt by the Israelites centuries ago. I don’t know how it works but I love the solidarity in abstaining from something even though I am not escaping across the desert with my children and belongings on my back.
Feast of FirstFruits: This is a rest day and we do take the day off from normal work and enjoy family time, time for being outside and reflection.
Pentecost: Full disclosure, we haven’t celebrated this one yet. So, I’ll be writing an update over the next years. Baby-steps! It’s OK, really, to do what you can. Just do what you can!
Feast of Trumpets: So this is fun! We have a celebratory special dinner and a beautiful loaf of Challah bread and serve gorgeous apples and a bowl of honey for dessert. I made the bread in the shape of a crown this year and it was a beautiful centerpiece. If you don’t bake, no worries, buy some Challah! And these are kind of extra-curricular traditional Hebrew things…the bread, apples and honey signifies the Word of God and how comforting and sweet it is to our taste! It’s a rest or Sabbath day the next day so we do family and quiet and outdoor things including a wonderful time at the river, where we throw rocks in that signified the past year’s sins. Sounds weird, right? It’s fabulous symbolic way to start fresh. It goes like this: you walk along a river or lake or sea, you reflect over the year and as you realize what a stingy or ungrateful girl you’ve been, you pick up a rock and hold it in your hand, and you ask God to forgive you and pray that next year you will be generous and open-handed and then you throw that stingy old attitude/rock into the water. And then you keep on doing that with whatever else comes to mind. It’s wonderful! It’s concrete and meaningful and the kids love it too.
Day of Atonement: is serious. It’s a fast from evening to the next evening and you break your fast with a feast but this year, my husband and I just fasted lunch the day of. We took most of the day off and had some time in prayer but that’s one we will work on refining.
Feast of Tabernacles: This is a wonderful 8 day party time where you don’t work the first or last day but in between can be work days and you build a temporary hut with branches and eat and sleep outside in it. So, we do a couple of things and we’re working on this one too. We have borrowed a neighbors really cool canvas tent and eaten most of our meals inside. We didn’t sleep in it but once our children are older, we definitely will. We hosted a wonderful outdoor party with live music and games and that was AWESOME. The whole point of this holiday is to make Christmas seem like a commercial nightmare. ;) Ha. No, just kidding. But that is totally what it did for me! Lots of historical accounts point to Jesus being born in this fall season (perhaps on Feast of Trumpets, exactly!) and so, truly, Jesus is the reason for the season.
Sabbath: Our routine is again, not perfect, but it has been reliably the best part of our week. We have a special Friday night dinner with our fanciest china, dishes and food and often we will dress up before we eat. I light the candles (two) with a special blessing said traditionally by the lady of the house, my husband prays and we enjoy a long, family meal with attention to each other. The feeling of peace and security and easing into the weekend is fantastic. We just leave all the tasks and work-worries behind – they will be there on Sunday morning to attend to, after all! But our minds and bodies will be refreshed and we’ll be ready to GET AFTER IT then. I am so much more productive after taking a weekly rest. Saturday we spend with friends, with our family, we’re outside, we read, we all nap…ideally we would worship with other believers but we instead go to a traditional church service on Sunday morning. Perhaps someday we will get to worship on a Saturday. But, hey, baby-steps…
So that’s what we’re doing! It will keep evolving and the rhythm of it will get easier. It’s hard to be so counter cultural, but it’s also really rewarding. Our family is stronger, our marriage is healthier, our bodies and minds feel happier and clarified and we have time for being with the people we care about.