LEWISVILLE, TX: We are at the beginning of the Judeo-Christian holiday season. As the years pass, however, the holidays, are becoming more diluted. Materialism and commercialism hijacking the religious celebrations of the Christian and Jewish calendar. Even many conservative believers religious holidays celebrations have fallen into the allure of modern secularism.
One could point out that the Christian Church’s Christmas and religious holidays (perhaps in AD 273) replace the original pagan festival of the winter solstice. Which is probably true. However, the reason for the season is not to correlate with ancient dates. It is to recognize and honor the birth of Christ and what that means.
Ho, ho, ho and mistletoe
Santa Claus, Christmas presents and elaborate tree decorations dominate the Christian’s celebration of the birth of the infant Son of God. A child not descending to the earth with the glory and pomp of a world leader, but as a body-bound, earth-anchored human child—Jesus of Nazareth.
Even the wonderful Hallmark romantic, feel-good movies have abandoned any theme that elevates the Jesus of Christmas. Plots and themes nearly always emphasize the “spirit” of Christmas with “feel-good,” happy things triumphs and love conquerors all situations.
The Easter bunny, egg hunts and churchgoers dressed in the latest lines of spring fashions have overshadowed profound implications of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Many believers fear children who focus on the mythical Santa Claus and the Easter bunny may tend to believe Jesus is the same kind of fairy-tale figure. While that can be a cause for concern it is more anxiety than reality.
All Saints’ Day is a Roman Catholic, Anglican and some Protestants’ celebrating Christian saints on November 1. It is widely believed today that the Christian Church attempted to replace the ancient pagan Celtic festival of Samhain with a celebration of its own. It became known as “Halloween.”
“All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain (Lord of Darkness), with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.”
Following the Christian and Jewish Calendar
Christian worship and celebration of the Christian Calendar are high church (primarily Catholic and Anglican churches) and low church (primarily Protestant churches).
High churches emphasize formality in ecclesiastical hierarchical, liturgical practices and tradition (Bible and Prayer Book). They adhere to the observance of the Christian calendar.
The “low church” denominations pay little attention to ritual practices in worship. They reject a formal adherence to the sacraments (Lord’s table and baptism), hierarchical church government and accept adherence to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures.
Judaism faces similar challenges.
Since the emancipation of Jews in Europe in the 19th century, Jews immigrating to the United States have sought to “fit in” by observing American civil holidays (thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc.).
Similar to secular “Christian-America,” celebrating holidays without Christ, humanistic Jews celebrate the Jewish calendar as a cultural event rather than a religious occasion.
“Humanistic Judaism offers cultural and secular Jews a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. It defines Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people. Jews celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvah) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but go beyond traditional symbols and liturgy.”
Much like American Christianity conflating religious holidays with fairy tale figures rather than a biblical celebration, the biblical intent of the feasts is lost to secular Judaism. Many today want to connect with Jewish traditions and rituals but not the theology.
The Jewish High Festival season begins during the last month of the Jewish year, Elul. Elul is when the shofar is sounded every weekday morning to call God’s people to return to the Creator. This in advance of the major feasts of Rosh Hashanah (biblical name Yom T’ruah, Leviticus 23:24 refers to blowing of the trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
September 30-October 1, 2019 (Jewish calendar 29th of Elul, 5779-1st of Tishrei, 5780) begins the new calendar with the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah (New Year). The feast celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is a day of prayer to ask God to grant a year of peace, prosperity and blessing.
It is also a joyous day to proclaim God King of the Universe. As well as a day of judgment and coronation. As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection. A time to review good deeds and assess spiritual progress over the past year and prepare for the “Days of Awe” (the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement).
Christian calendars do not follow the Jewish annual calendar that celebrates the new year in September. Christians and most of the world have adopted the calendar based on the Julian calendar (46 B.C). The Julian designates January as the beginning of the new year.
Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582 introduced the West to the Gregorian calendar. Since that time it has been the standard for most of the world.
The Gregorian Calendar has three fewer days in every 400-year period than the Julian Calendar.
The result is the difference between the celebration of Easter and Christmas in the Western and Eastern Churches.
Much of the world is gradually falling away from biblical principles as their authority for living a spiritual and moral life. Religious holidays often simply focus only on family gatherings and time for feeling good. For Christians and observing Jews, however, religious holidays celebrate faith. For the Christian, that means faith in the risen savior, Jesus Christ, who died as an atonement for all who believe.
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