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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, December 16 2021

Why I celebrate the biblical Holy Days

Tessa Black explains why her family does not celebrate the traditional religious holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day. They observe the biblical Holy Days outlined by God in the Old Testament to ancient Israel and kept by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, setting an example for us to do likewise.

by Tessa Black

My family doesn't celebrate Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day or any other religious holiday like most people do. People sometimes think that means we are not Christians, but we are. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and was born on earth to the virgin Mary, to die for us so we can have a chance to live forever. We read the same Bible as everyone else.

The reason we don't keep Christmas is because the Bible doesn't tell us to. It tells the story of Jesus' birth, but not as a Holy Day. It doesn't even tell us what day He was born. Dec. 25 is a day called the winter solstice. Most of the traditions of Christmas come from people called pagans who lived before Christ was born and worshipped idols. Later, during the Roman Empire , Christians started keeping these traditions in Jesus' name and today everyone thinks that's OK.

But the Bible says we shouldn't take away or add to God's laws. And we are not supposed to reject God's Commandments so that we can keep man's traditions, even if they seem fun. So that's why my family doesn't celebrate Christmas.

We do celebrate Holy Days from the Bible. These Holy Days were given to God's people in the Old Testament and were kept by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. I love God's Holy Days because they teach me to remember things that God has done for His people in the past and His plan for saving all mankind in the future.

I want to tell you about the festivals that are in the Bible and what they mean to me.

Passover: We remember God's angel passing over the houses of His people and sparing their firstborn sons in Egypt .

We also learn that the first step in God's plan to save us is for us to accept Christ's death as a Passover sacrifice for us and be baptized.

First and Last Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread: We remember God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt and that they had to eat unleavened bread. Unleavened bread has no yeast to puff it up, so it is flat.

We also learn that the next step in God's plan is to try to take the sin out of our lives. Sin is like leavening, it puffs us up and makes us proud. God wants us humble, like the flat bread. During this week we eat unleavened bread and take all of the puffy bread out of our house to remind us to clean the sin out of our lives.

The Day of Pentecost (also called the Feast of the Firstfruits): We remember that Jesus started His small Church with His apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit as a comforter while He is gone.

We also learn that the next step is that we can be one of God's firstfruits in His harvest when He returns.

The Feast of Trumpets: We learn that this day is the day Christ returns to rule the earth and set up His Kingdom. It will not be a secret when He comes, because angels will blow trumpets so loud that the whole world will know.

The Day of Atonement: We learn that when Christ returns, Satan will be put away for a while and we will finally be at one with God without the devil causing trouble. Atonement kind of means "at-one-ment." On this day God tells us to fast for 24 hours, from sundown to sundown. Fasting means we don't eat or drink anything, not even water. This teaches us that if we do not become at one with God, we have no hope and will die.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths): We learn that next is 1,000 years of peace in God's Kingdom here on earth. God will rebuild the earth and Jerusalem will be the capital. King David will rule under God. All people will be taught to obey God's laws and keep these Feasts every year. The Bible even says that people who won't keep the Feasts will have no rain for their crops until they obey.

The Feast of Tabernacles is my favorite festival. We must leave our house and live in temporary houses and live like God's Kingdom was already here for a whole week. We go to really cool places and do lots of fun things as a family. We also go to church every day for two hours—some days twice!

The Last Great Day: We learn that when the 1,000 years is over, God will resurrect all the people that ever lived and died but were not part of His Church. Billions of people will be brought back to life and put back together as skin and bones and given a chance to learn His laws and His way of life. God loves all His children and hopes that "not one should perish." Everyone gets a chance to be in God's family and live forever as a spirit being like God. This will be the GREATEST DAY EVER, because all friends and families will be together again and know God.

I hope you enjoyed learning about these Holy Days and why I keep them, and now you understand why I don't celebrate Christmas.

Herod had ruled the province of Judea, which encompassed most of the geographical areas of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for almost 40 years at the time Jesus Christ was born, with secular history and archaeology confirming his reign (Matthew 2:1-3, 7-8).

He was a great builder, initiating construction projects in at least 20 cities or towns in Israel and more than 10 in foreign cities: "Archaeological excavations have uncovered a surprisingly large amount of evidence pertaining to Herod the Great Idumean who, in 41 B.C., was granted provisional rule of Galilee by Mark Antony [the friend of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra´s last lover] .... In 30 B.C. Octavian (Caesar Augustus) affirmed Herod's rule over Judea, Samaria, and Galilee .... Herod remained in power until his death in 4 B.C…." (Archaeology and the New Testament, 1997, p. 91).

But Herod was not just known for his great building, political and military skills, but also for his great cruelty. The Bible records his utter disregard for human life by describing his reaction to the birth of Jesus. When his scheme to identify the newborn Messiah failed (verses 7-8, 12), Herod lashed out with great violence: "Then Herod … sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under [the approximate age of Jesus], according to the time which he had determined from the wise men" (verse 16).

This massacre in Bethlehem was not out of character for Herod, who also had many members of his family put to death: “Herod in his rage over his family rivalries and jealousies put to death the two sons of Mariamne [his wife] (Aristobulus and Alexander), Mariamne herself, and Antipater, another son and once his heir, besides the brother and mother of Mariamne (Aristobulus, Alexandra) and her grandfather John Hyrcanus." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Bible Explorer Software, 1997).

The New Testament description of Herod the Great is thus confirmed by what historians and archaeologists have found concerning his rulership, building projects, political strength and uncontrollable wrath toward anyone threatening his kingship.

The Census of Caesar Augustus

Luke, a meticulous historian, introduces other famous personages in his account of the birth of Christ. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city" (Luke 2:1-3).

Ancient papyrus census decrees have been found for the years 20, 34, 48, 62 and 104. These show a wide-ranging census normally took place every 14 years, although local counts were, at times, taken more frequently. A papyrus in the British Museum describes a census similar to Luke's account, taken in 104, in which people were ordered to return to their birthplaces: "Gaius Vibius Mazimus, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those ... to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments" (Frederick G. Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, 1907, plate 30).

Joseph's Occupation in Nazareth

Joseph was a skilled craftsman who worked not only with wood, but with stone masonry. The usual term translated as "carpenter" in the Bible (Mark 6:3) is from the Greek term ‘tekton’, which has the broader meaning of 'artisan,' referring to a skilled worker who works on hard material such as wood or stone or even horn or ivory. “In Jesus' day construction workers were not as highly specialized as in today's workforce. For example, the tasks performed by carpenters and masons could easily overlap" (Richard A. Batey, Jesus & the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus, p. 76).

Although Nazareth was a small village in Galilee of no more than a few hundred inhabitants, Joseph and Jesus likely found steady work in the city of Sepphoris four miles away, where huge construction projects were transforming the city into a large, regional centre.

Recent archaeological excavations in Sepphoris show it to have been a bustling, prosperous city during the years Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth. Shirley Jackson Case, professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago, remarks “.... It requires no very daring flight of the imagination to picture the youthful Jesus seeking and finding employment in the neighboring city of Sepphoris. But whether or not he actually labored there, his presence in the city on various occasions can scarcely be doubted..." (Batey, pp. 70-71).

These historical records help us better understand the background of Christ's teachings, which included illustrations drawn not just from farming and animal husbandry, but also construction, rulers and nobility, the theater, government, finance and other aspects of city life.