Others have observed the similarities between Christian holidays and pagan celebrations—coming to conclusions as varied as denouncing all holidays in the name of orthopraxy, to inventing new ones, to reverting back to observance only of those holidays which appear in Scripture. While none of these approaches are wrong, we at Exodus celebrate those Christian holidays most prominent on the Christian calendar: Christmas and Easter primarily, and while it's not specifically a traditional Christian holiday, Thanksgiving.
But it's important to understand where our holiday traditions originated, and that it's not pagan holidays we primarily draw from in observance of our own, but those decreed by God Himself to the people of Israel. Yom Kippur, for instance, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a foretaste of the redemption we celebrate at Easter. Passover foreshadows the Lord's Supper and the Passion of Christ. Rosh Hashanah corresponds to Lent as observers fast in anticipation of the Day of Atonement. Even "secular" Jewish holidays like Purim (celebration of the overthrow of Haman in the book of Esther) is similar to the Christian observance of All Saints' Day.
The reason we don't observe these holidays in exactly the same way now is that Christ's work precludes the need for celebration in the same way. Whereas the Jews celebrated in anticipation of the coming Messiah, we celebrate what He already accomplished and our continued hope in Him. While it is important to avoid pagan overtones (Easter eggs, for example, are holdovers from Babylonian worship of the fertility goddess Ishtar, and therefore have no place in Christian practice), it is equally important to realize that the Jewish understanding of redemption was incomplete, and that our holidays have necessarily developed to accomodate Christian doctrines and truth.
That being said, there is still plenty the Jewish holidays can offer. On one hand, they are evidence of Christ's presence in the Old Testament, kind of living prophecies God's people were supposed to enact to remind themselves of the coming of the Savior. On the other, the very traditions attached to them are deeply theological, and demonstrate the way God wants us to view and understand Him. There really is no recourse for proper celebration of the Jewish feasts today (even for Jews–with no temple there can be no proper Jewish worship), but there are plenty of resources available to help Christians understand the nature of these celebrations and thereby to deepen their own faith.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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