In recent conversations, it came out that my family and I were going to observe biblical feasts this year. We were going to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.
Some people’s response: “You aren’t Jewish.” I nod and say, “Yes, but Jesus was and to draw closer to him, to understand God better, we are decidedly observing the day.” Then the day continues, conversations waxing and waning about miscellaneous events and details. These encounters caused me to pause. We don’t say this in regards to seemingly Christian holidays. We would say it to someone who chooses to observe Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist traditions, but not traditionally recognized Christian holy days. Why?
Atheists participate in Christmas and Easter every year without a bat of the eye from most folks. Yet, if you state that you are partaking in a Jew’s holy observances or any other religion’s holy days, you are ultimately questioned. This might not be universally true, but what I have personally experienced and witnessed.
I ask myself, why? Why does reflecting on Christ’s birth and resurrection not give others pause? Why do atheists and even individuals from other faith traditions willingly participate in celebratory practices on a Christian’s holiday and questions are not asked as to their motives and reasons? This perplexes me. Is it because the history is indeed pagan in nature and sadly, Christians go through motions rather than true conviction and dedication? I have been guilty of this myself; please, understand this question is not asked in judgement but rather curiosity.
How are we awed more about the mystery of a mystical figure who gives us presents rather than a complex God who challenges us? I’ve heard it said that it is fun to watch a child’s excitement over the magic of Santa’s surprise gifts left under a tree? Why does materialism and greed cause us to find more joy than the birth of a radical Savior? Shouldn’t Emmanuel stir more wonder in our hearts and soul than a jolly man who breaks and enters? Are we only okay with Santa’s crime because he satisfies our wants with wrapped illusions of gratification? Do we not know that St. Nicholas was a real figure who bestowed gifts to the poor IN THE NAME OF CHRIST?
Christ compels us to a higher standard. He charges us to love our neighbors, to give even when we are inclined to hate. This is the reason St. Nicholas gifted presents to those around him. He didn’t do it so children would have the latest fad on their wish list. Have we become so numb to the miracles of God that we can’t convince others the significance of observing a holy day in honor of a divine Creator as Jews have? Their traditions are preserved for their religion typically. Even when marketing ploys bank on purchasing practices, the Jews and other faiths still solely draw an audience that recognizes and acknowledges some authenticity to that faith alone.
I guess this is another reason why I want to look for the prophecies that foretold Emmanuel; to celebrate the holy days that dig deeper into God, his word, and ultimately the Savior. I am searching for a richer, more authentic, more wondrous devotion to God through festivals and fellowship. I want to be awed more by Christ than the “American dream”, or a “genie God”.
I don’t want a God who blesses me with my desires. We need a God who transforms us to his image, not our greed. Our passions are fickle and self-centered. God demands being other-centered and devoted to him. His ways are NOT our ways and I want that because his ways, albeit difficult, have always resulted in a more satisfying peace.
I want to hunger and thirst for righteousness, praying my family will do the same. This isn’t about legalism. We don’t coerce or force others to follow us. We can share the good news and our excitement in finding ways for applicable, tangible ways of experiencing it, but in the end, the Spirit calls, convicts, and converts. After all, God saves and transforms us. Our good deeds do not. That is another facet of these observations I like. Rosh Hashanah, as with other biblical feasts, center on the reading of Scripture, prayers, and recognizing God as holier than humanity. To that end, I praise him and pray that these pursuits are more for his glory than mine.