Category Archives: Jewish Holidays

Hanukkah Sameach!

Today we are continuing to celebrate Hanukkah. This year, Hanukkah last from December 20 until December 28th. Many people recognize this as the “Festival of Lights” But it is so much more than that. Hanukkah is less about light and oil than it is about dedication and faith.

You see, about 165 BC the Syrian King who ruled over Israel, King Antiochus IV appointed a Hellenistic High Priest over Israel. He prohibited the study of Torah, and he commanded the sacrifice of swine upon the holy altar. This was about as much desecration as the temple had ever seen.

This caused the Hasmoneans, led by Jewish High Preist Mattityahu and his Son Judah Macabee (Which means Hammer. I.e the Hebrew Hammer) to rebel. They sucessfully reclaimed Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord. Hanukkah is the celebration of the rededication of the temple after it was reclaimed by the Jewish people.

The story of the Oil that we often share has several different tellings, but the basic premise is that when they rededicated the temple, they only had enough oil to last in the Temple Menorah for one day. It takes eight days to prepare oil for the temple menorah. The miracle occured when the oil lasted for all eight days until the fresh oil could be prepared.

The Hanukkah Menorah is special and is different from the traditional temple menorah. The Temple menorah has Seven candles, while the Hanukkah menorah has Nine. Eight candles for the  eight days, and One for the Lord. According to Hanukkah, it is a time of celebration, there is to be no fasting or mourning, because we are to rejoice of the freedom and liberation of the Temple and the Jewish People.

It is customary to light the center candle and then each night you light one candle from the right to the left, each day you have the corresponding number of candles lit. It is also proper that the Hanukkah Menorah be displayed where it can be seen from outside, and the candles should face so that those outside see them from right to left.

Now the question for us as Christians is  how to celebrate Hanukkah. What is the point for people who may not have any actual Jewish Blood. I would remind you that you are grafted into the family of God, and thus the Jewish people are now your brothers and sisters. While it is not required to celebrate, it is always good to rejoice with your brothers when they rejoice, and the mourn with them when they mourn.

The story of the Oil lasting  is great, and many Jewish families eat oily foods to celebrate the miracle of the oil, however the purpose of Hanukkah is to celebrate the faith of the Hasmoneans who would not bow to any God but YHWH. Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, the Hasmoneans were willing to die if that was the only way to avoid serving another God.

During this season of Hanukkah we should rejoice in our freedom to be servants of Messiah Yeshua. To live and breathe as the family of YHWH. We should take this time to rededicate ourselves to the Lord, much as the Hasmonean Jews rededicated the Temple. Remember that you are the temple of the Lord. This is a season of Rejoicing and celebrating and being merry because we are free.

There are those around the world who aren’t so blessed as we are, and cannot celebrate the Lord freely and must hide their faith or lose their life. Since we are free to worship in the open we ought to worship twice as joyfully on their behalf. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me.

matreames@gmail.com

Head of the Year…

Rosh Hashanah is coming up at the end of this month. But do many Christians have any idea what that means? Sadly no. That is why I am writing this article. I believe that there is much to be learned from studying Jewish culture, customs, and their calendar. Because they receive many of these times, seasons, and traditions from The Lord himself. If we begin to understand these customs, we will be able to understand our God a little better.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It is literally translated “Head of the Year.” It is the anniversary of creation. But, with our modern culture we have reduced “New Years” to A Big party, binge drinking, and resolutions we don’t intend to keep. The Jewish new year is very different. This is because the Jews are very different. For a better understanding on how the Jews are different from us. I recommend reading “To The Jew, and also to the Greek.” This is a lengthy thread, but if you just being with the First page and follow the thoughts that Yod1948 is sharing, you will get a start to understanding this mindset issue. (You may become so enthralled that you read all 10 Pages. I did)

Now understanding that Jews are different from the rest of us, it is easy to understand that their holidays would be as well. You see, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the year, but also the begining of an important season on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah in itself is not of much significance. It is the season that gives it significance. Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom Teru’ah, which is The Day or Feast of Trumpets, as well as Yom ha-Zikaron, which is The day of remembrance. Rosh Hashanah is a day of remembrance. It begins the 10 days of Awe which lead to Yom Kippur, or the day of atonement.

What are we remembering?  Why should those who aren’t Jewish care? Well, as Christians, we strive to become more like Christ. To live like he lived. Jesus was a Jewish man, ad observed the Torah, all of the Law, the Prophets, the Feasts and the Holy days. For instance “The Last Supper” was actually a passover Seder. Jesus being a good Jew, was observing the passover which was originally a sign that would point to who he was. Jesus never told us to stop celebrating the feasts or festivals. There is no evidence to support that the Apostles gave up the feasts and festivals. In fact one of the most important days to the formation of the early church was The Day of Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish holiday, and during this observance, the Spirit breathed on the early church. Perhaps at a later time, I will write a full article simply on the importance of observing the Jewish Holidays, but for now I digress to the topic at hand.

Rosh Hashanah, the day of remembrance,  the feast of trumpets. What is the significance to us as Christians? Well, this is the start of a new year. A time when we let go of the past and prepare for the future. God opens up the heavens over us for a spirit of Repentance and the Fear of the Lord to fall upon us. God is preparing us for the day of atonement.

How do we partake in this? Many Christians struggle with the Idea of the day of atonement, because we have the cross which is the ultimate atonement.  However, this is a season where we are preparing ourselves for God’s presence. The days of awe lead us to Repentance and the Day of atonement. However after the day of atonement, we have a bit of a break before the feast of Tabernacles begins. Tabernacles is a time of special communion with God. A time when the people set themselves apart and met God in their own tents.

Instead of looking at Rosh Hashanah as a single day, we need to look at the scope of Tishri. Which is the month on the Jewish calendar in which these all happen. God calls us to rememberance of who we are and what we have done. God begins to show us the things that are keeping us from more of him. This could be blatant sins, like sexual sins, or murder, or similar things. However, often it is mindsets and attitudes that keep us from God. He begins to show us our wrong thinking and our wrong attitudes; the things we do and say that are not pleasing to him. If you can honestly tell me you don’t have any of these and you are in perfect communion with God at all times, I suspect Pride, and Lies are your big enemy.

As we progress from Celebrating the beginning of the new year, to reflecting upon ourselves and our relationship with God, we move to the day of atonement. A time to ask God to remove these from ourselves and our congregation. To cleanse us and restore us to purity. After he has restored this purity upon us, he calls us to come aways with him. The past few years since I have begun to explore my Jewish roots and celebrate the Festivals, this has become my favourite time of the year. Each year, I become more like him, and I see an increase of his presence in my life.

Now you might argue that this doesn’t have to be done at this time of the year. You might say that you can repent of sins and mindsets any time of year, and you are right. However, this is a God Ordained season. I did not institute Trumpets, Atonement, or Tabernacles. I did not pick the dates and the traditions. God designed this time for this purpose. Yes, you can repent and experience him any time of the year. However, this is a time when he has planned it to be done and there is a special grace that is not found the rest of the year. This is a doorway in time and the door is open. When we begin to move and live in God’s timing we find ourselves having to strive less, but receiving more.

So hopefully I have given you a brief understanding of the significance  of this time. I am hoping you see the importance this next upcoming season, and how it can bless you richly. The question is how do we respond to it as Christians. How do we celebrate this time, and take part in these traditions?

Well, Messianic Congregations, and those who observe the Jewish holidays hold special services. Rabi Curt Landry from House of David broadcasts these services live from his website. Last year I had the honor and privilege of going to  Oklahoma and being a part of his Rosh Hashanah service. It began with a feast. This is something I loved. It was a church Pot Luck and people brought foods. (kosher of course) But families volunteered to be responsible for a table. This meant that the family would provide the dishes, silverware, glasses, everything for that table from their own home. They also served as hosts for those who were at their table. I love this because it was a great community building exercise.

After the dinner was over, we all shifted to the sanctuary and celebrated in worship. We sang, and danced, and made merry in the presence of God. (Jewish worship involves much more than singing and lifting hands. Its truly a celebration) When the worship was over, Rabi Landry came up to give the word.

First an introduction into the significance of Rosh Hashanah as a day of Rememberance and Trumpets.It was during this explanation that the sound of the Trupmet was blasted. House of David used Silver horns, but a Shofar is also widely used. There are four types of blasts sounded. First a Long blast that signifies Christ as King. Then Three diatonal blasts that symbolize repentance. Third 9 staccato blasts in rapid succession to symbolize awakening the soul or sounding the alarm. Finally One Long blast, held as long as you can stand it. This final blast is the victory blast, and shout of Jubilee. Then he moved on to the sermon. The sermon was not like a normal sermon, but it was a “state & direction of the church” message. He shared about the last year, and cast the vision for the next year. This wasn’t simply his vision, but the vision the Lord had given him.

Finally he ended with a challenge. He asked everyone to search their hearts over the next 10 days and to deal with their sins, their mindsets, and their attitudes in preparation  for the day of atonement.

This is a great example of how I feel a service should be held for “The Feast of Trumpets” Begin with community, move to worship, then release the word. This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Wednesday the 28th and continues to sundown on Thursday the 29th.

That Wednesday would be a great opportunity, since many churches already have a midweek service.  Have a dinner, then a special service for Rosh Hashanah. Worship the Lord, and thank him for the work he has done in the last year (5771 on the Jewish Calendar) Then move into vision casting for the next year. After you have shared the vision, call the congregation to attention, and sound the blasts of the Shofar or the trumpet. After this, give the call for repentance and self-examination. As you make this call bring the worship team up for altar ministry so they can make music and worship as people come to the altar to examine themselves.

I promise that as you being to move in time with God’s calendar you will begin to see a stronger presence in your congregation. Because the Lord honors obedience, and when you move in the season he says to move he rewards you greatly.