Christmas And The Feasts of Israel

by Ron Graff

It came as a big surprise to the Early Church to realize that Jesus' death and resurrection were the fulfillment of important feast days that Israel had observed for ages. He died on Passover, and was raised from the dead three days later at the Feast of Firstfruits! Then, on the next feast day, Pentecost, His promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled (Acts 2). The effect of this was to give additional proof or validation that Jesus was who He claimed to be. These holy days were symbolic of things to come. According to Colossians 2:16-17:

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

It has been noticed that many other important events in Israel's history took place on the anniversaries of their holy days. Students of prophecy could not help but notice that the next festivals on the Jewish calendar could have special meaning for future events. We do not believe in setting dates, but there is possibly a connection between these feasts, which followed Pentecost, and key events of prophecy. Rosh Hashanah, the ancient Jewish New Year's Day, is also called the Feast of Trumpets. Wouldn't that be a fitting time for the Rapture of the Church (at the last trumpet)? Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, is the Day of Atonement. Perhaps this will the festival which will be fulfilled by Christ's glorious appearing, when there will be great mourning for the one whom we have pierced. Then there is The Feast of Tabernacles, symbolizing the presence of God in our midst. This would be a most appropriate time for ushering in the Millennial Kingdom of the future.

The Christmas Connection

Could it be that Jesus' birth was also on one of Israel's holy days? Let's consider some of the possible connections here. Please notice that we are not dogmatic about this. We will have to wait until we get to heaven to know for sure, but these are exciting possibilities!

Birth of John the Baptist

John's father, Zechariah, was a priest, and it was during his cycle of duty that he was told that John would be born. Careful scholars have determined that, since Zechariah's family was eighth in the rotation of priests, that Zechariah's first service of the year would be about June (of our calendar). If John was actually conceived at this time, he could very well have been born at Passover, nine months later. This is a fascinating thought because Jesus said that John had come in the spirit of Elijah. At every Passover an empty place is set for Elijah, and someone is sent to the door toward the end of the evening to see if he has come yet!

Birth of Jesus

Jesus was born six month after John. If John was born at Passover, this would place Jesus' birth at the time of the fall festivals (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Feast of Tabernacles). The Feast of Tabernacles would be an exceptionally meaningful time for the birth of Christ, since the tabernacles, or booths symbolized God's dwelling with His people, and John starts his Gospel by affirming that Jesus, who is the Word of God, actually became flesh and dwelt ("tabernacled") among us! (John 1:1, 14) This, by the way, would be a time of year when the shepherds would still be with their sheep in the fields. This is not the case in December. In the Middle Ages, at this time of year, Michaelmas ("Coming of Michael the Archangel") was celebrated. This could be symbolic of the angelic choir which announced Christ's birth. But what of the traditional date of December 25th? Skeptics tell us that this was a date chosen for convenience and because it corresponded with pagan winter celebrations, such as Saturnalia. There is some historical evidence for this view, but consider one further, very interesting point…

Jesus' Conception

If, in fact Jesus was born at the Feast of Tabernacles, His conception would have been nine months earlier, just at the time of Hanukkah, The Feast of Lights! Because of the difference between the Jewish calendar and our own calendar, Hanukkah is sometimes a few weeks before Christmas, but it is sometimes very close to it. The Jewish festival is based on God's miraculous provision of light during the days of the Maccabees. Again, how very appropriate it is to celebrate the coming of the One who is The Light of the World! (John 1:4-9; 8:12)

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Last updated 12/4/2003