Christians have good reasons to celebrate. There is so much that God has done for us, that we can really “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). But there are certain occasions on which we especially remember and celebrate God’s salvation work.
Major feasts in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God ordained certain feasts that the Israelites should celebrate. The three major feasts had to do with the harvest season (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).
- The first feast, called Pesach, was celebrated when the barley was harvested. Some of the harvest was offered to the Lord. At this feast, the Israelites also celebrated how God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. That was a major act of salvation that should never be forgotten! It was, among other rituals, celebrated by eating the Passover lamb (see e.g. 2 Chronicles 35:6).
- The second feast, Pentecost, was celebrated at the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22). On this occasion, the Israelites offered God their first “fruits”. They also remembered and celebrated that God had given His Torah, His covenant law, at Mount Sinai.
- At the end of the harvest season, there was one more series of feasts (Leviticus 23:24-34). This started with a day of rest, “a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets”. On the tenth day, the Israelites celebrated the Day of Atonement. The season was concluded with the Feast of Booths: “All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
All these feasts thus were occasions to thank God, to remember His great deeds in the past, and to restore one’s relationship with Him.
Christians nowadays have different feasts, but some of these have a connection to the old Jewish celebrations. The main feasts Christians celebrate are:
- Christmas. On this occasion we remember how Jesus Christ was born as a human baby, in order to save humanity.
- Good Friday and Easter. We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. The special thing is that Jesus died and rose at the Jewish feast of Pesach. He was the fulfillment of this feast: by dying in our place (as the ultimate Passover lamb), He brought about the ultimate act of salvation (far greater than Israel’s salvation from slavery in Egypt). Read for example 1 Corinthians 5:7: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”. By raising from the dead, Jesus conquered sin and evil.
- On Ascension Day, we remember how Jesus went back to His Father in heaven.
- At the Jewish feast of Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit. This event is celebrated by Christians as well. It was the beginning of the church, and the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that He would send “the Helper”, the Spirit of truth (John 15:26; John 16:7).
These feasts are all special occasions to praise God for his salvation work. Although not all Christians do celebrate them on exactly the same dates and in exactly the same manner, they are great ways to remember together what God has done. Do you celebrate – together with the worldwide church?
The greatest feast is still to come
The best part of the Christian life is the glorious future God has in store for us. This future is depicted as a feast or a banquet: “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God”, Jesus promises. (Luke 13:29, NIV)
Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast to illustrate what God’s Kingdom is like: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast” However, the invited guests did not want to come! But that did not stop the feast. “And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:1-10) This parable makes clear how important it is to accept God’s invitation, and also that the Lord invites anybody without exception!
As a remembrance of Jesus’ death, but also as a foretaste of the great banquet that God has in store for his children, Christians regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They eat a piece of bread together and they drink a little wine as symbols of Jesus’ body and blood that He sacrificed for them.
Have you already accepted God’s invitation? Are you looking forward to this feast?