Fall festivals

As summer quickly turns into fall, we begin the yearly festival cycle anew. I like to think of the year as a “wheel” with summer at the bottom and winter at the top. The festivals we celebrate in the fall begin the annual cycle and turn the wheel as we journey through life. Repetition of these celebrations keeps the story of our heritage ever alive in our minds, and causes us to return to the scriptures and traditions that teach us trust. Celebrations like these also create wonderful opportunities to teach our family’s story to our children, giving them the gift of a rich sense of identity and shared meaning. This year we’ll be sharing books, recipes and activities to help you celebrate the holidays with your little ones.

Beginning in September, we celebrate three feasts from the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament. Jews also observe these feasts, because their sacred texts include some of our Old Testament books. Jewish tradition is accented with rabbinic commentary and interpretation of the scriptures, and their holidays are observed in accordance with those traditions. We observe these holy days in a different manner; to us they represent Jesus the Messiah. We are not authorities on Jewish tradition, though there may be some overlap in the style of our observances. While we hold Jews in the highest respect, we don’t wish to imitate their holy days. The holy days we share in common are only those we each find in our shared scriptures. For that reason, I’ll refer to the shared holidays as “Hebrew feasts” since they come from the original Hebrew Scriptures. Others, like Hanukkah, we don’t observe because they are post-biblical Jewish holidays with no Christian precedent.

Many of the Hebrew feasts bear significance to believers in Jesus the messiah because they point to his coming or other aspects of prophecy. Hebrew feasts are grouped in the spring (including Pesach and Shavuot, what we know as Pentecost) and fall, with a period of time in between (which, interestingly, the Christian church observes as “ordinary time” or Kingdomtide). As summer comes to a close, we prepare to observe the fall feasts:

• The Day of Trumpets (Evening September 6 – Evening September 7)
• The Day of Atonement (Evening September 15 – Evening September 16)
• The Feast of Shelters (Evening September 20 – Evening September 27)

The dates of these festivals vary based on the moon; these are the dates for 2021.

In my studies I was fascinated to learn that some teach that the groupings of feasts represent the first and second comings of Jesus. As we have seen, Passover clearly shows symbolism of Messiah, and next year we are planning to go more in depth on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came, which is celebrated at the time of the Hebrew festival of Shavuot. This means that we can expect to see second-coming symbolism in the feasts we’ll celebrate this fall.

First on the calendar will be the Day of Shouting, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, in Hebrew known as Yom Teruah. Post-biblically, the festival began to be celebrated as the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah. Many traditions have sprung up around Rosh Hashanah. For us, the Day of Shouting symbolizes the announcement of Jesus’s second coming. It’s a time to declare his Kingship over the whole earth, and to proclaim him to the world. It’s a time of fearless proclaiming of his lordship.

Next, we celebrate The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This day symbolizes the judgement that will occur when Christ returns, and it is a solemn observance. In much the same way as we observe Lent in the spring, we take an opportunity at Yom Kippur to reflect on our need for Christ and the price paid for our sin.

Finally, we celebrate once again with the week-long Feast of Shelters (Sukkot). This represents the wedding feast with Jesus, the celebration of his return to finally claim his bride, the church. We celebrate in temporary shelters, remembering the temporal nature of this world, and imagining the someday-soon when we will celebrate in New Jerusalem’s palatial banquet halls.

As we journey through this part of the calendar, I hope you’ll find meaning and joy in these special days. Each year I discover a treasure of new meaning in the ancient holidays, meaning that brings me and my family closer to God and teach us about his love.

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