Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

A Little More About Christmas….

So, This Is Christmas….

What Actually Happened, What May Have Happened and What We Think Might Have Happened

A Long Time Ago In A Manger Far, Far Away…..

A man named Joseph and a woman named Mary were engaged. They were not wealthy. We know this as a fact as they gave two young doves, or pigeons as a sacrifice at the Temple when Jesus was presented. This was the alternate sacrifice for the poor, who could not afford a lamb. (Lev 12: 8, 24) We are later told that Joseph is a carpenter, but the word we translate as carpenter is a broad term, which may be ship builder (which would explain why Jesus’ disciples tended to be people who had boats), handyman, or actual carpenter, as we typically see portrayed. Regardless, he was a man who did manual labor, and not in an elite position in society.

The couple was engaged, but the marriage had not been consummated. As per tradition, the paperwork had been signed, and it was a time for Joseph to prepare a home for his family. When this was complete, the couple would officially wed and the marriage would be consumated. There would be a celebration, and the couple would begin their lives in their new home.

An angel appears to Mary and reveals that she will conceive, though she is a virgin, and that her son will be the Son of God. To confirm that this is true, the angel reveals that her elderly, barren, relative, Elizabeth, is now in her sixth month of pregnancy, which is also a miracle. Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. (Luke 1)

As was a custom of the time, Mary is sent off to stay with Elizabeth, to learn what childbirth entails. Elizabeth is the wife of a highly respected high priest, whose pregnancy was foretold at the Temple, when her husband was given the duty of entering the Holy of Holies to commune with God. This was a time when the nation longed for a word from the Lord, and the word was that Elizabeth would bear a child. This high priest’s wife, who is now considered blessed by God in the same manner as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel would be beyond reproach, and a woman, likely young, who had conceived out of wedlock would soon arrive at her home to be part of this birth…. Elizabeth greets Mary wonderfully, stating that the child in her womb bore testimony to the importance of the child Mary is pregnancy with. There is no shame, only welcome from this expectant mother, whose reputation could have suffered through her association with her cousin. (Luke 1) (Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband and high priest, will later be killed between the altar and the Temple while performing his duties. It is speculated that their son, John the Baptist, was also on Herod’s list of babies to be killed, as the prophecy of his birth indicated he would be a great man, and thus a potential threat to the king. Zechariah may have hidden Elizabeth and his son with the Essenes in the desert, which would explain John’s dress and spartan lifestyle as well as his affinity for baptism and desert preaching. It would also explain why John and Jesus did not know each other well. Mt 23: 35)

Joseph, a good man, did not seek to turn Mary over to the authorities, but instead sought to divorce her quietly, likely to allow her to wed the father of her baby, without shame or punishment. An angel comes to his in a dream and assures him that Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit as she has said, and that he is to wed her. (Matthew 1)

What Joseph and Mary do next is a bit odd. Typically, if you were going to marry a pregnant woman, you would do so quickly to avoid scandal, and, although people would know the baby came a bit early, they would overlook the fact, and allow everyone to save face, assuming the marriage was merely consummated by the couple a little earlier than it was supposed to be, which likely happened at times…. Mary and Joseph however do not officially wed until after Jesus is born, letting everyone know that Joseph is not the father of her baby. Why would they do this? The only reason that makes sense is that they did not want anyone to doubt that this was God’s son, even though the disgrace would follow them, and their child, throughout their lifetimes. Jesus will later be referred to as the ‘son of Mary,’ a title which is not commonly used and likely indicates that others know that he is not Joseph’s biological child. (Mark 6: 3)

Just to complicate matters, a census is called. Now the Roman order for everyone to go to their households was likely not meant as the Jewish people interpreted it. For the Romans, their household was the house they lived in most days, and they were to remain in one place during the census so they would only be counted once. For the Jewish people, this was an order to return to their ancestral land to be counted as part of their tribe, like other censuses in the Bible. Both Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah, and descendants of king David. Their ancestral land was in Bethlehem, a small town. Unfortunately, kings tend to have lots of wives and lots of children, and by this time the number of people who also called Bethlehem ‘home’ was significant. By the time the pregnant Mary arrived, there were no rooms to be found.

There is some controversy over where exactly Mary and Joseph ended up. Some claim it was an actual manger with animals. This may be true as Mary would be seen as unclean and needed a place away from others. Others say it was more of a cave, where animals were sheltered. Other say it was a room in the house where animals would be allowed in during times of cold weather. Regardless of where it was, it was not ideal.

There is also debate as to the timing of Jesus’ birth. At the time death days, to remember a dead loved one, were more likely to be celebrated than birth days, and the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not recorded in scripture. It is very likely that the date is not December 25th, as it is now celebrated. Many speculate the birth was in the spring, using John the Baptist’s birth as a timetable, since we are given a few clues as to when that birth may have occurred, but there are still many assumptions made with that method, such as how far along Mary was, and that Elizabeth conceived very close to the time the prophecy was given. Another speculation is that Jesus was born during the time of the Feast of Booths (aka Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot). This would fulfil the meaning of the feast, which is God dwelling with the Israelites. This would not be a full, but a partial fulfillment of this prophecy, as the fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled, and Jesus did not remain on earth with us. I like this thought, but there is no firm evidence for it either.

When Jesus is presented at the Temple, there are two known prophets, Anna and Simeon, a man and a woman who further support Mary and Joseph’s claims regarding the baby. (This is also ‘proof’ that God was not silent as some claim during the time between the Old and the New Testament, as there were known prophets hanging out, whose function is giving messages from God. God was not ‘silent,’ but merely did not give messages that required preserving for generations to come.)

Some of the first visitors to greet Jesus were shepherds, who told by angels that the baby has been born. During this time, the sheep for Passover were kept in the fields between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The shepherds would witness each lamb’s birth and certify that the lambs born were without blemish, and suitable to the Passover sacrifice. As Jesus is the Passover lamb, it is fitting that these shepherds may be the ones who were also present to visit him shortly after his birth.

Interestingly, there is no mention of Mary or Joseph’s families visiting or helping with the birth, or at any time afterward. As ALL of their extended families would be crammed into little Bethlehem, and the people telling them that there was no room for a pregnant mother were also likely related to them, there is a very real possibility that the couple were treated as outsiders, and the birth ignored, so for anyone dealing with less than ideal relationships at Christmas time, there is evidence that Jesus, Mary and Joseph may have endured similar issues as well…. God/ Jesus being rejected by those who should love Him will be a repeated theme throughout the New Testament.  

The next visitors were three kings, or wisemen, from the east. These men knew of prophecies which are not recorded in the Bible and were looking for the promised king. Likely these are descendants, or future disciples, of the three young men (Abednego, Shadrach and Meshack) and Daniel, who did not return to Israel, but stayed with the Babylonians, then Persians and ruled in the regions under the authority of Daniel. They would have studied scripture, as well as any writings Daniel left behind. This included a sign, or star, that foretold the timing of a promised king. Unfortunately, they alerted Herod, a crazy despot who had already killed a few of his children for fear they would take his throne, of the baby’s presence. Their visit likely occurred sometime after the birth. It is celebrated by some Christians on January 6th. For some, this is the day that presents are given, as it is the day that Jesus received his gifts as well. In New Mexico we put out luminarias (farolitas) to light the way, so the three wisemen can find the baby Jesus.

An angel then speaks to Joseph about the dangers to his family in a dream. (As if he and Mary have not already been through enough…) This affirms Joseph’s position as father, even though he is not the biological dad, and says a lot about how God views the man who raises a child who is not his own flesh and blood. The family flees to Egypt, repeating the history of Israel through their actions. God will again speak to Joseph in a dream, letting him know it is safe to return to Israel. This is not ‘proof’ that God speaks to the husband only regarding the family, as some have said, as Samson’s mother, Rebekah and other women who were married to godly men have also heard from God regarding their children as well. (Judges 13, Gen 25:23, 21: 12) When they return, they will settle in Nazareth, a small town where Jesus will grow up. Nazareth means branch and is an obscure fulfillment of yet another prophecy. (Matthew 2: 13, 19)

I hope you enjoyed a few extra tidbits about Christmas!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Chanukah/ Hanukah/ Hannukah

Happy Chanukah/Hanukah/Hanukkah!

If you are Christian, like I am, you probably do not have much experience celebrating Hanukah. Here are a few tips and facts to get you started!

1. Why are there many spellings for Chanukah? Hebrew has an alphabet that different than the English alphabet so the word is ‘transliterated’ meaning that it is spelled out phonetically. Different people decided on different spellings and in this case, all of them became acceptable, likely because Jewish people tend to live in large groups in order to worship together, so there were already many people using each spelling…..

2. Chanukah is mentioned in the Bible as being celebrated by Jesus. It is called the Feast of Dedication and is mentioned in John 10:22.

3. So, what is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a celebration of a miracle. Some focus on the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days so the priests could continue cleaning the Temple while new oil was being purified in order to be used in the Temple menorah. Others focus on the fact that a small people group, the Jews, defeated a very large, impressive army and took back their land. Both are miraculous and deserve recognition!

So, allow me to tell you the story of Chanukah (my favorite spelling by the way!).

After Alexander the Great died, the lands he conquered were split into 4, then 5 kingdoms which were ruled by his generals. Israel was in an odd position as reportedly Alexander and his army showed up, the priests showed Alexander that he was prophesied in their writings, he left thinking that they had surrendered and the Jewish people thought he was leaving them alone. Later, Israel would pay a tribute to nearby kings, but that was not the same as being conquered, but it was something, and everyone was semi-content. (A thousand historians just pulled their hair and screamed over this over-simplification….)

So, a crazy king named Antiochus Epiphanius wants to conquer everything and be like Alexander. His name means God on earth, just to give you an idea of his brand of crazy, and he does want people to worship him. His kingdom is north of Israel and to get to the ‘everything’ he wishes to conquer he must go through Israel. He forces the high priests to sacrifice pigs, desecrating (ruining) the altar at the Temple, and then everything in the Temple (which is why it needs to be cleaned) and then continues into the countryside. There he is met by a group of priests, who pretend to go along with him, then attack his men and lead a successful rebellion. These are the Maccabees and their nickname is Strong Hammer. The older priest, the father of the family who leads the revolt, is in his 80s and dies soon after, and his son, Judah, who also fought, becomes a leader. This family will become priest-kings in the inter-testimonial time when this occurs, until Rome takes control. (Chanukah occurs in the time between the Old and the New Testament. It always bothers me when people imply God was not involved with His people during this period. Just because nothing was recorded in the Bible, does not mean God was silent, and Chanukah is proof of that! -Also, there was a female queen of Israel during this time, Salome Alexandra, who has an interesting story….)

The priests immediately began working to clean the Temple but found only one jar of purified oil. The Temple has no windows, but has a seven branched menorah, and gold-plated walls which reflect its light. Without the menorah, they would be cleaning in the dark…. It takes eight days to purify the oil, but they were in a hurry, so they started working, getting as much done as they could before the oil they had ran out. The oil lasted the entire 8 days, when it should have lasted only one, until the new oil was ready, so their work was not interrupted. The Hanukkiah (an eight branched menorah) has one more branch than the Temple Menorah and represents the eight days the oil lasted. It is lit from right to left (the way Hebrew is read) by the candle that is either in the middle or off to the side on some modern Hanukkiah. This is the servant candle, and is left lit as well. The candles for the Hanukkiah are made to burn for one hour, and the Hanukkiah is to be set in a window for all to see.

4. So, how do we celebrate?

There are many ways to celebrate, so feel free to use the internet for more ideas. Since we also celebrate Christmas, we do not get together for all 8 days, and do not give gifts at this time. Most years we meet as a large group just once during this time. We eat challah (sweet, braided bread), have a meal, play the dreidel game, light the menorah (hanukkiah), tell the story of Chanukah and give out chocolate coins (gelt). Sometimes we incorporate other treats typical to the Jewish culture. There are many ways to celebrate, so look up ideas on the internet- there are many- and make the celebration your own!

5. The next question you will have is- Why is the dreidel game so boring?!?!?

This game is actually purposefully boring, and it was a brilliant plan. During times of occupation, teaching the torah was often prohibited. The Jewish people would ignore this rule and teach it anyways. To hide their gatherings, they would play the dreidel game. It was so boring no non-Jewish person would want to play for long. It was also easy to pick up and put down the game when others came, so that no one looked too suspicious, and then go back to studying. There are references in historical texts of pagan writers complaining about the Jewish people always playing that infernal game! Little did they know…. My children when they were young, and now my grandchildren do enjoy the game however boring it may be. The adults breathe a sigh of relief however when they are finally out. Typically, we play for small pieces of candy, but small coins or other things may be used. Interestingly the Jewish people at this time believed that learning should be rewarded since following the Word of God resulted in blessings in your life, so they often rewarded the children for learning with honeyed candies. Living out at least portions of history helps children understand and retain what they learn. I hope this helps you feel more comfortable adding something extra into your holiday time. You can also use it as a teaching tool out of season, if the holidays are already too overwhelming! Sukkot (the feast of booths/ tabernacles), Passover and Purim (especially Purim, where you get to dress up!) are also fun to celebrate as a family as well. Look for my posts regarding those holidays as well.

Celebrating Purim


Photo by Matija Barrett

Celebrating Purim!
Purim begins at sunset on March 20th in 2019. If you have never celebrated Purim, here are some ideas!
1. Make trifold cookies that represent Haman’s hat. Google Hamentashen cookies for recipes. There are a few varieties. Date/ fruit centers are traditional, or you could go with a chocolate option!
2. You will need noise makers. Clackers are traditional. Read the book of Esther. (If you don’t want to be there all night you can read a children’s version.) Whenever Haman’s name is to be read, drown it out with noise from the noise makers.
3. Since there was a ‘beauty contest’ for the king to pick a wife, it is also customary to dress up in costumes. Trifold hats are popular, as are masks, since Esther’s true identity as a Jewess was hidden.
4. Fast during the day leading up to Purim (or from sunset to sunset) to remember Esther’s fast.
5. Feast to remember the feast Esther invited the king and Haman to. (Try some traditional Jewish foods such as challah, knishes, babka or latkes. Recipes can be found on the internet. You may want to abide by kosher rules on this night: very simplified-no pork and shellfish, and don’t mix dairy with meat.)
6. Wine is traditionally drunk on Purim. (Grape juice can be substituted. We like Welches Sparkling grape juice- making it a little more festive.) The story begins with drinking at a feast, though this is more of a cautionary tale about why one should not over-indulge….
Celebrating Biblical holidays is a great way to teach children the Bible. Have fun and enjoy yourself, and don’t stress. Start small- there is always next year!

The Gifts of the Magi


The Bible is filled with prophetic imagery. The gifts the Magi (Wise men, or Three Kings) bring to the baby Jesus is no different. Each of the gifts plays a role in Temple service and all are related to the Arc of the Covenant, where God speaks to man.

The Gifts of the Magi: 
Gold– the covering of the ark of the covenant, the frame of the tabernacle, the lampstands and the interior of the Temple.
Tabernacle: frames overlaid with gold and gold rings and hooks to hold the crossbars. Ex 36:34 Ex 26: 29, 37
Covered the interior of the Temple- the holy place and the holy of holies. 1 Kings 6: 21
Lampstands of pure gold. 1 Kings 7: 49
The Arc of the Covenant was overlaid with gold. Ex 37: 2-4 2 Chron 3: 10
Gold nails 2 Chron 3: 9
Frankincense: part of the incense which was waved behind the curtain of the holy of holies. Ex 30:34
Sprinkled on the grain offerings Lev 2: 1-2, 15- 16, 6: 15, 24: 7, Neh 13: 9, 1 Chron 9: 29
Myrrh: used to anoint the arc of the covenant and the tent of meeting, the tabernacle and all the accessories. Ex: 30: 23-27


A quick guide to celebrating Esther’s feast for Christians.

The holiday of Purim was established in the book of Esther by Esther and Mordecai. It is fun to celebrate with children, and a great way to teach them their Bible.

1. Traditionally the book of Esther is read on Purim. If you have young children with short attention spans, you may read a children’s version.
The children are given noise makers. During the reading they are instructed to make noise whenever Haman’s name is to be read, so loud that his name is not heard, and thus not honored.
2. The children dress up. They may dress as Esther (a queen), the King, Mordecai (a Jew) or Haman (an evil man). (The adults may dress up too.)
3. As a Jew, Mordecai would have worn a prayer shawl. Learning to tie the fringes of the shawl, the tzitzit, as instructed in scripture can be a fun family activity. (Google tzitzit for instructions.)
4. There are many recipes for Purim. 3 sided cookies, called Hamantaschen, are common and represent Haman’s hat.
5. Games of chance are also an excellent way to celebrate Purim. But emphasize that the point of Purim (which means lots) is that there is no chance; God is in control.

How to Celebrate Hanukah

How To Celebrate Hanukkah


Photo by Matija Barrett

Hanukkah, aka Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication etc, is a fun holiday to celebrate, and it is an excellent opportunity to teach your children more about the miracles of God. (See my last post about why we celebrate…)

As Christmas and Hanukkah are close together, it is somewhat difficult for Christians to celebrate without getting holiday burn out. For this reason we typically have one larger celebratory night and then light the candles only, on other nights. For small children, without much of an attention span, celebrating with small gifts all eight nights sometimes takes the edge of the Christmas craziness…. your choice.

As the Jewish calendar does not line up with the calendar we currently use in the US you will need to google when Hanukkah occurs. You will also need a menorah, aka a Hanukiah, candles and a dreidel. Chocolate coins, known as ‘gelt,’ are also nice for small children. The chocolate is usually of a very cheap variety and will not impress your teens…

An 8 stem menorah is placed in a window. Each night at dusk it is lit from right to left (Hebrew is read from right to left, unlike English). The menorah actually has 9 candles. The extra candle, either in the middle or off to the side, is the slave or servant candle. This candle is lit first and is used to light the other candles. The first night only one candle is lit, the second two etc. The slave candle is also left lit. Hanukkah candles are made to last approximately one hour and burn completely down. Cleaning the menorah of wax is… interesting. (This is not the same menorah that sits in the Temple. The Temple menorah has seven flames and is filled with oil.) Typically the menorah is lit by the mother. A blessing over the candles is said. She then sits for at least 30 minutes while the husband serves the meal. This is to remind us that the victory over the enemy was delivered through the hands of a woman, Judith. The husband may make the entire meal, or merely serve it. This is to prompt the children to ask why mom sits, when she is busy every other night. Jewish traditions often set up situations to prompt the children to ask questions about godly things.

Food: Since this is a holiday which features a miracle of oil, fried foods are king. Potato latkes and jelly donuts are traditional. Feel free to make your own traditions. I like serving olives, from which the oil is made.

Games: The dreidel. A dreidel is a 4 sided top. If you are very creative you can make your own with your children. Otherwise you can buy one- they are relatively inexpensive. Each side has a Hebrew letter. As I do not have a Hebrew type setting, you will have to google this. In the US the 4 letters stand for ‘a miracle happened there.’ In Israel there is a slight difference and the letters stand for ‘a miracle happened here.’
To start everyone puts one piece into the center pot. This can be your gelt (chocolate coins), or pennies, or any other small item you wish to use.
Shin: it looks like a 3 pronged menorah, or w. When you land on shin you put a piece into the pot.
Hey: this looks like an n, a table or a house. If you land on this you take half of the pot. (If it is odd, take the extra.)
Gimmel: This looks like a boot. You take the entire pot. Everyone then places one piece into the pot.
Nun: This looks like a backwards c. You do nothing.
The dreidel game is not meant to be exciting. It was traditionally used to hide the fact that the Jewish people in captivity were teaching their children the Torah, which was against the law. When a stranger approached they resumed the game. The game was uninteresting enough that the foreigners did not want to join in. There are ancient texts with snippets mentioning the Jewish obsession with that boring game!

Music: There is a lot of Hanukkah music- google it and find your favorites. My favorite is The Hanukkah Song by the Bare Naked Ladies on their holiday album, Bare Naked for the Holidays, which contains a lot of interesting, unique Christmas songs as well. (I know, who would have thought a band called Bare Naked Ladies would be the one doing a great job here!)

The candle blessing: If you wish to do this in Hebrew google it and listen to the proper pronunciation, or listen to the Bare Naked Ladies song….. The blessings vary, depending on who you ask, and can vary by night. I do not use the blessings that imply that following the commandments makes us in relationship with God, though it is an important part of the relationship…
Here it is a blessing you can use in English:

Praised (blessed) are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who performed wonderful deeds for our ancestors in those ancient of days at this season.

You can add your own personal prayers as well, thanking God for the small ways He provides for you as well.





Photo by Matija Barrett

Chanukah is a holiday commemorating a miracle that occurred between the times recorded in the Old and the New Testament (erroneously mistaken as the ‘silent times’).
Chanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication (of the Temple), is recorded as being celebrated by Jesus in the New Testament as well, making it a holiday Christians too may celebrate and enjoy. (John 10:22)

To understand Chanukah, which has many spelling options as it is transliterated from Hebrew (spelled as it sounds since the language has a different alphabet), one must go all the was back to Alexander the Great who conquered much of the area surrounding Israel, then died. The vast amounts of captured territory were given to 4 generals, then one was split to include a 5th general. These were ruled somewhat peacefully for a while, until an egomaniac, who named himself Antiochus Epiphenius (god on earth) decided to conquer the other four kingdoms.

Antiochus ruled the Seleucids to the north of Israel and had to travel through Israel to get to the other kingdoms. Now Israel was in an odd position… When Alexander approached Israel the religious leaders met him and showed him prophecies in the Old Testament that appeared to be about him. Alexander assumed this meant that the Israelites were surrendering to him and left. The Israelites assumed that God had saved them through this revelation and believed themselves to be free. Israel paid tribute occasionally after this and everyone was happy.

Antiochus comes through, desecrates the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and destroying everything, including the jars of oil, and tells the Jewish people that they are to worship him. He then sends his troops throughout the countryside to desecrate the Jewish altars that exist in the remote regions. (I know there was only supposed to be one altar, but if you read the Old Testament carefully you will see that the people rarely fully obeyed this rule.) At one altar a priest, Matthias, either pretended he was going to sacrifice the pig and instead attacked the soldiers, or attacked the soldiers while the pig was going to be sacrificed (the accounts I have read differ). In either case, one old priest, who dies of natural causes within the next year, kills a group of trained soldiers. His sons lead the uprising. This is known as the Maccabean Revolt and his son, Judah, is credited as the leader. Maccabee, loosely translated, means ‘strong hammer’ as the Jewish people were short on swords and used whatever they had to fight.

The Jewish people did not have an easy time winning. The turning point of the war came when they were facing the bulk of the enemy army and a young widow, named Judith, snuck into the enemy camp as a camp prostitute with a basket of salted cheese and wine. She entered the enemy commander’s tent, got him well drunk, cut off his head, put it into her basket and returned to the Jewish camp. There she gave the head to the Jewish commander, who presented it to the enemy. This disheartened the troops, and the Jewish people were victorious.

After winning the war, the Jewish priests went to cleanse the Temple. When they entered the Temple, they discovered that there was only one jar of oil to light the menorah, enough for one day. The menorah is needed to light the Temple as the Temple has no windows, but rather the golden walls reflect the light of the menorah inside. It takes 8 days to purify more oil in the manner prescribed for Temple use. As they were motivated to clean the Temple, they began the work immediately. Miraculously the oil lasted all eight days until the new oil was ready and the Temple was cleansed.
Chanukah therefore commemorates not only the miracle of the oil that allowed the Temple to be properly cleansed, but also a victory from oppression.

Remember, the Jewish people could have tried to use oil not prepared properly, inciting God’s wrath. Or, they could have waited to cleanse the Temple. Instead they were fervent in their dedication to the things of God, and did not wish to wait one second more than necessary to begin to honor Him. God saw their commitment and honored them with a miracle that let them know that He was indeed with them. A very personal miracle, showing that God blesses the desires of our hearts in small ways, such as oil lasting longer than it should, as well as large ways, such as the parting of the Red Sea.

The Last Day of Sukkot


On the eighth day of Sukkot (The Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles) God commands all the Jews in Israel to hold a sacred assembly (get together in Jerusalem, do no work and eat).

On this day the Jewish custom is to pour water on the altar as an offering to God. It is also on this day that the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read.

It was on this day that Jesus said ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink..’ (John 7:37-39) implying that He was the source of living water (God).

So how would a Christian home celebrate this day?

Some suggestions include:

-Reading Deuteronomy 28- the blessings and curse- explaining to your children the benefits and disadvantages of following God’s Word. (This is not the final chapter. The final chapter of Deuteronomy involves Moses’ death and Joshua’s commission.)

-Pouring out water (onto the ground) as a reminder that God provides the water of life.

-If your climate co-operates water activities for the children or the young-at-heart may be part of the celebration. Slip and slides, sprinklers, pools and water guns are always fun, as is a trip to the water park. If your climate does not co-operate, you may wish to include snow cones, dry ice concoctions, bubbles, water colors, or fishing may be fun.

-A happy birthday Jesus party. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, and many believe that it may have been on the last day of Sukkot, since Sukkot commemorates the time when God ‘tabernacled’ or lived among the Israelites in the desert. (FYI: The Jewish people at this time did not typically celebrate birthdays. Instead they tended to remember death days…)

-Since the last day of Sukkot was the day the Jewish people finished reading the Torah in the synagogue, (the readings would begin again with Genesis 1:1), they frequently passed out candy at this time (honey treats). As a reminder that God’s Word is ‘sweet’ (pleasant to follow) the candy would be distributed among the children. A piñata, or throwing of candy during the reading of the blessings in Deuteronomy may help reinforce this concept.

-During this time Jewish children often paraded by with flags they had made symbolizing what they had learned. Adults would toss candy for the children to catch. Making flags that represent your thanks for what God has blessed you with may also be a fun activity. (Instead of flags, you may make other items such as collages.)

-Food ideas: Create a menu that includes food from the sacrifices at the temple: beef, lamb, goat, unleavened bread, and wine (grape juice for the kids). You may also wish to include citrus fruits, since the lulav is to have citrus associated with it. A Happy Birthday Jesus cake may also be fun. (FYI: There is no prohibition against eating leaven at this time. Unleavened bread is typically offered at the Temple.)

-The final waving of the luval, a bundle of four types of branches: citrus, palm, myrtle and willow. (Lev. 23:40)

Ideas for the day after Sukkot

Since Sukkot represents the end of the harvest season, ideally the end of fall, this is a good time to get ready for winter. The day after Sukkot may include:

– Getting the yard ready for winter (putting away lawn chairs, the grill or anything else that will not be used in the coming months). Play praise music and make it fun, thanking God for the seasons, and the fact that summer yard work has come to an end!

– Winter clothes shopping. Hats, boots, gloves etc will soon be needed. The day after Sukkot is a nice time for this event. Since it is a planned outing, and not a rushed trip when the first snow hits, this should be a relaxing, fun time away from the house. Plan a nice meal out as well to make it a relaxing, fun day for all.

– The first cup of hot cocoa, or pumpkin pie may also be a nice treat, indicating that fall is finally here.

You may stretch these activities out instead of doing them all in one day, since this is not an official holiday. Just remember, it is easier on a family to do these activities as relaxed, fun, planned events, rather than rushing around at the last minute to get everything done. Sukkot gives us a date that reminds us the time to do these things is near.

Sukkot: The Feast of Booths

 Image 13

The Feast of Booths

aka The Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles

aka Sukkot (Sue-coat)

The Feast of Booths is a time of joyous celebration, when everyone is to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is basically a week-long camping trip for all believers.

During Sukkot a family would travel to Jerusalem. There they would build a shelter using wood and intertwining vines and flowers so that the stars could be seen through the roof at night. It is here that the family will reside for the week.

The Jewish people celebrated Sukkot to remind them of their time of wandering in the desert. It was also a time to bring in their tithes and offerings, and thank God for the harvest. The Jewish people also poured out water at the Temple and thanked God for the rain that occurred during the proper season at this time.

Sukkot is also a time for people to get together. God requires each family to gather and wave four different types of branches. This bundle of branches is known as a lulav and it consists of citrus, palm, willow and myrtle branches. Since these branches grow best in different areas it can be assumed that God wished for the people to interact with people from all areas of the land. This wish for the people to interact is further exemplified by God’s command for the people to leave the city from the gate opposite to the one from which they entered. (Ez. 46:9). God wants us to know and interact with other believers from all over.

It is believed that it was at Sukkot that Jesus proclaimed that He was the Water of Life. It is also believed to have been Sukkot when Peter wished to build booths for Moses and Elijah when Jesus transformed on the top of the mountain and was seen speaking to these men. It is also believed that Sukkot is the only Old Testament feast we will be celebrating when Jesus rules and reigns on earth, likely as a reminder of the time when His presence was not here. (Zec. 14:19)

So how may we honor this feast today?

While a week off of work would be nice, it is not practical for many families. And, since the weather in northern climates is harsh and/or rainy during this time, living in a booth is also not practical. Many families choose to celebrate this holiday instead by building a simple shelter and eating dinner in it for the week, with perhaps one night set aside for star-gazing and/or outdoor sleeping.

By the way, Jeroboam changed the time for celebrating Sukkot to one month later in order to discourage people from wanting to celebrate it in Jerusalem (outside of the kingdom he ruled) where it would now be too cold for comfort. (1 Kings 12:32)

For more information check out (Judaism 101), Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16.

Yom Kippur/ The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)


Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references:

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