HOLIDAY BLESSINGS: FAITH, FAMILY, FESTIVALS, FOOD, & FUN, Chapter 2
HOW FREE ARE WE, TO CELEBRATE HOLIDAYS AS BLESSINGS?
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Celebrating holidays and festivals, under the New Testament principle of grace, is a matter of Christian liberty — according to Romans chapter 14 and Colossians chapter 2, which provide:
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind; he that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it; he that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (Romans 14:5-6)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
So here is Paul’s commandment for New Testament believers: don’t let anyone judge you regarding how you observe holy days (i.e., holidays), or new moons, or sabbath days. (This provides a lot of individual freedom, obviously, so all of this book should be contextually understood within the context of that Christian liberty.) As noted above (relying on Matthew 12:8 & Luke 6:5), the Sabbath was made for mankind, not vice versa, so legalistic observances of holidays is unbiblical.
Yet, it also should not be ignored that the original Sabbath was (and still is) “sanctified” by God (see Genesis 2:3), to commemorate His historic creation miracles during the first six days of Creation Week. The seven-day week, universally observed around the world, from the beginning of human history, serves as an ongoing reminder — a permanent chronology monument — of God’s Creatorship, and it should do so!
As usual, Genesis provides both the historical and theological foundation for understanding our world and our lives – and even the proper recognition and observance of holidays!
As the first holiday ever established, in all of human history (literally, when Adam and Eve were only one day old!), the original Sabbath provides an instructive precedent for all holidays that would later be invented — the beneficial purposes of holidays include:
(1) remembering something that is valuable, i.e., something more important that the celebration itself;
(2) resting (which includes mentally relaxing) from the busy business of ordinary work responsibilities, at least long enough to appreciate something important that occurred in the past; and
(3) revering God for Who He is and for His wonderful deeds.
A true holiday (i.e., “holy day”) blends all three of these holiday / festival characteristics.
Tragically, most of the modern world, and likely even most modern Christians (due to secular thinking), strive only to blend the first and second elements into their “holidays”. But the hope (and prayer) underlying this book is that many Bible-honoring Christians will apply all three.
The uniqueness of the seven-day week should not be overlooked – it clashes with other time-keeping cycles. Actually, ever chronology norm we commonly observe is grounded in an astronomical cycle (e.g., days, months, years) except the seven-day week. There is no astronomical cycle that uses a recurring period of seven days, so the ubiquitous usage of seven-day weeks is a forensic testimony that corroborates the Bible’s account of the original Creation Week. Since weeks are unusual in earthly time measurement, and they are, the underlying reason for measuring time in weeks should be appreciated – and moreso because such appreciation is actually commanded in Scripture!
Consequently, it is wise and good to remember the original Sabbath (and how God sanctified it), by recognizing that all following Saturdays are specially appointed to serve as remembrances of Creation Week. Remembering the original Sabbath day (and thus remembering and appreciating God’s role as our gracious Creator) truly sanctifies the thinking of any believer who thereby consciously “keeps holy” the seventh day.
How this is done, as a matter of details, is purely a matter of Christian liberty (not to be regulated by any ecclesiastical “authorities”). Even so, it is never a good idea to ignore the historical (and monumentally historic) fact that God chose to sanctify the seventh day of Creation Week, in order for God Himself to celebrate His own deeds of Creatorship during creation’s initial six days.
This point is so important it will now be emphasized, because this point is one of the most important ideas in this ongoing detail-packed series of studied about holidays:
HOW YOU CELEBRATE HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS IS A MATTER OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, WITH LOTS OF ROOM FOR CREATIVE FREEDOM, YET THESE THREE SABBATH PRINCIPLES, DERIVED FROM GENESIS 2:3, ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (by this non-authoritative author):
(1) REMEMBRANCE of something/someone more important than the celebration itself;
(2) REST from routine work activities, including mental RELAXATION, emotional RESTORATION, and/or wholesome RECREATION; and
(3) REVERENCE for the Lord Jesus Christ (and for His written Word, which glorifies Him), somehow, as rightfully preëminent in all of His creation.
Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ should be preëminent in all things (Colossians 1:18-19), including proper recognition of and appreciation for His deeds in creating all of creation (John chapter 1; Hebrews chapter 1; Colossians chapter 1; Revelation 4:11). Therefore, it should not surprise us to learn that the Biblical holidays and festive celebrations are prophetically pointing to some special aspect of the redemptive Person and work Lord Jesus Christ. This point is made by Paul in Colossians 2:17.
Specifically, the apostle Paul qualifies the theological purpose of Old Testament holidays and Sabbath days – namely, they foreshadowed “things to come”, most importantly they foreshadowed the redemptive Person and deeds of the promised Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of these liturgical foreshadowings (called prophetic “types” in the New Testament) are easy to recognize. For example, the Passover Lamb is obviously a prophetic portrayal, dramatized in ceremonial liturgy, of Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (compare Exodus chapter 12 with John 1:29 & 1st Corinthians 5:7). Likewise, it is obvious that the Old Testament celebration of Firstfruits is directly fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection (see 1st Corinthians 15:20 & 15:23).
However, the theological meanings of other Mosaic Law festivals, such as the Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23:33-43 – Sukkoth, a/k/a the “Feast of Tabernacles”), require more careful Bible study to appreciate.
So we return to Paul’s command about celebrating holidays: don’t let anyone else “judge” you with respect to whether and how you celebrate holidays, new moons, and sabbath days – because these matters are all matters of individual conscience toward God — i.e., it’s all a matter of Christian liberty. Therefore, the guiding principle (when celebrating holidays and festivals) should be how an individual honors God (1st Corinthians 10:31) and avoids using his or her Christian liberty in ways that would be selfish (Galatians 5:13).
Remember why specific holidays are important, as a matter of God’s providence in human history. Relax and enjoy the worthwhile festivities that go with specific holidays. Revere God as you celebrate holidays and festivals.
 Paul is even more stern regarding ecclesiastical efforts aimed at compelling individuals to fast, such as prohibiting the eating of meats; ecclesiastical fasting mandates are examples of demonic teachings (see 1st Timothy 4:1-5).
 God’s sanctification of every seventh day was “obviously intended as a permanent human institution, not controlled by the heavenly bodies which mark days, months, seasons and years [see Genesis 1:14], but the physical and spiritual need of all men for a weekly day of rest and worship, in thankfulness for God’s great gift of creation and (later) for His even greater gift of salvation. … The age-long, worldwide observance of the [seven-day] “week” is not contingent on the movements of the sun and[/or] moon (like the day, month and the year) but rather is mute testimony to its primeval establishment as a memorial of God’s literal seven-day creation week”. Quoting Henry M. Morris, editorial footnote to Genesis 2:3, in the New Defender’s Study Bible (2006), page 15.