Today most people around the world are celebrating Christmas, a day to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, the Messiah of the world. Okay, there are many who admit that He wasn’t born today or even within a month’s time frame of this day, but this is the day that has “randomly” been chosen to celebrate it. It doesn’t take much historical digging to find out that today was considered by many godless cultures the birth of the messiah – a false one, that is- and celebrated as such for generations before the birth of Yeshua. But nevertheless, churches and Christians still choose to observe this day (and entire month season) as the birth of their Messiah. So when families gather around the Christmas tree, go to the many parties of the season, eat of the many traditional foods, or give gifts to each other, they are connecting with generations in the past who also had decorated trees in their homes, partied, ate these same special foods, and gave gifts to each other… but is this what we are supposed to be connecting to?
This morning my son was reading in Nehemiah, as a part of our weekly reading schedule, and had a question concerning this passage…
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to Yahveh your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of Yahveh is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. 8:9-12 NASB
He questioned why they were told to stop weeping and instead rejoice, and why the day was holy to Yahveh…was it because they had rebuilt the wall and read the Torah? Thankfully I had read that portion the day before and knew that he had overlooked something just prior to that. I had him back up to verse 2…
Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
Did you catch it? The 1st day of the 7th month. This wasn’t just some random day, this was a day that Yahveh had revealed to His people at Mt. Sinai as being one of His holy days! (Check out Leviticus 23:23-25 if you are unfamiliar with the passage.) No reason is given for the need to joyfully blow trumpets and rejoice on that day, just that they were to do it. So the people of God obeyed Him, and in the future generations, those who have shown their love for their God through obedience to Him, have observed this day of joy.
Did Yahveh give His people a “freebie” holy day, one to “kick-off” the high holy days season? I think not. Being holy – set apart, sanctified speaks volumes about what kind of day this is. The new moons were days that were to be observed by special sacrifices anyway, but were not holy. This day was different than an ordinary new moon. God knows the end from the beginning, so when He separated out a people for Himself, He gave them feast days that had significance. Even Paul points this out in Colossians 2:16-17 when he says festivals, new moons and Sabbaths are shadows of what is to come and their substance is of Messiah. These are important days to God and should be important days to us! The Israelites observed these days only knowing what had happened already to them (being freed from Egypt and given the Torah) and for the reasons that Yahveh laid forth (thanking Him for harvests, repenting of sins as a nation). They didn’t know about the sacrificial death of the Messiah or of being endued with power from on high by the Holy Spirit, that was to come in later years, but Yahveh did. The past and present generations are connected in observing these holy feast days, and we can observe the other holy days with expectation for what Yahveh has for us in the future.
But what about Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Messiah? This day of great joy heralded by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, that caused the shepherds to find the newborn babe and go about glorifying and praising God, do we not think that perhaps God has already seen ahead and planned for that in His holy days? Hmm… a day of joyfully shouting… a day with no reason attached to it…could it be that when the people of God throughout the generations (including in Nehemiah’s time) have celebrated Yom Truah (Feast of Trumpets), they have celebrated the birth of the Messiah?
What are you celebrating?