He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25 NRSV).
In 586 BC, the Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jews to the environs of Babylon. For seventy years the Jews lived in exile. Even in exile the war continued. In his war against the saints of God, the Babylonian king sought to change the times which were established by God as holy days for His people. In doing so the the king robbed God’s people of their spiritual heritage and promise. The Babylonian king was trying to transform the people of Israel into Babylonians.
If the Christian faith is to survive the onslaught of secularism, then Christians must strive to remember the Faith.
The sacred seasons of Israel stem from divine revelation and give the saints an opportunity to remember God’s saving acts.
To remember is not to reflect on a memory, but to re-live, to participate in, the redemptive event. As we remember these redemptive events the holy days become sacraments of God’s sanctifying power in the present. Also, they serve to disciple ensuing generations of the faithful.
- The Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is a day of rest when all normal activity ceases. The faith community remembers creation and worships the Creator (Leviticus 23:3).
- Passover is the primary redemptive event of the Old Testament. It was a major festival held in the spring to remember Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the greatest miracle God performed for his chosen people (Lev. 23:4-5).
- Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks, was remembered 50 days after Passover as a harvest festival (Leviticus 23:15-22). The Pentecost festival was associated with the renewal of God’s covenant, first with Noah and then with Moses. It came to be regarded as the day when the law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
- The Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur, was the day of national repentance. It was a fast day in which the people sought reconciliation with God by offering blood sacrifice for the covering of their sins (Leviticus 23:26-28).
- The Feast of Booths, also known as the feast of Tabernacles, was an eight day that remembered the wilderness wandering of Israel. During this period the people would live in small huts that were constructed from the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:34-36).
The Sacred Seasons of the Christian Church grew out of the conviction that all time finds its meaning in Jesus Christ.
- The Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, is a weekly remembrance and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). In the second century Justin Martyr reported that Christians gathered together in one place “on the day of the Sun” in order to hear the Scriptures read and expounded and to take communion. He wrote, “We assemble on Sunday because it is the first day, that on which God transformed the darkness and matter to create the world, and also because Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on the same day.”
- Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day. The season of Advent encourages Christians to remember the Old Testament expectations of the coming of the messiah, to commemorate the fulfillment of these hopes in the birth of Christ, and to prepare for His return.
- Christmas is remembered as the season of our Lord’s birth when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25 and continue through January 5. The days of Christmas remember The Holy Family, the slaughter of the innocents, the naming of Jesus, and the dedication of Jesus.
- Epiphany begins on January 6 and continues until Ash Wednesday. It remembers the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God. It includes remembering the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, his first miracle and his transfiguration.
- Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on the day before Easter. The Lenten season is a forty day fast. It is a time of repentance and consecration and it remembers the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness and his journey to the cross. The Lenten season corresponds to the Jewish Feast of Booths. Lent concludes with Holy Week, the week prior to Easter, begins on Palm Sunday and remembers the final week of the life of Jesus. Holy Week includes Maundy Thursday which remembers the Last Supper and Foot washing; and Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified. Holy Week corresponds to the Jewish Passover and Day of Atonement.
- Easter is the annual remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. It begins on Easter Sunday and continues for seven weeks. During this season emphasis is placed on the heavenly location of believers in the risen and exalted Christ, the ascension of Christ, the resurrection on the last day, and the eternal kingdom.
- Pentecost is the annual remembrance of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. As for Israel Pentecost signified the giving of the Law; for the Church, Pentecost signifies the giving of the Spirit, the New Covenant.
To properly remember these sacred seasons we must rid ourselves of the secular, we must sanctify the time.
The Lord’s Day must be a holy day (Isaiah 58:13-14). Normal activity should cease. It should be a day of worship, meditation, reflection. However, among Christians today, the Lord’s day is no longer a holy day, but a holiday. It is no longer a day of spiritual reflection, but a time of play. No longer is it a day that the Christian community comes together in one place and one accord, but a time to leave town, to visit family, or engage in sports. We must sanctify the time.
Christmas celebration must emphasize the incarnation of Christ. It should be a time of careful reflection. However, our modern celebrations of the Christmas season all but eliminate the theological significance of this holy season. The politically correct celebration of Christmas is to call for world peace, while refusing to recognize the Prince of Peace. Advent as a time to reflect in preparation for meeting God has been transformed into a time of economic and social frenzy. Further, we have traded the God who became flesh for Santa Clause so that even Christian children and given a mixture of fact and fantasy so that they cannot discern the truth. We must sanctify the time.
Even more ridiculous that the modern celebration of Christmas is the modern secular celebration of Easter. No longer to we emphasize the single most important event in the history of the world – the resurrection of Christ – but we tell our children that they shall be visited by a large white rabbit who will leave them a basket of treats. We must sanctify the time.
When the remnant of Israelites returned from the Babylonian exile one of the first things they did to reestablish their national spiritual heritage was to begin observing their sacred seasons (Ezra 3:5).
Most Pentecostal believers are unfamiliar with the Christian liturgical calendar. As a Pentecostal pastor, I have become convinced that in order to faithfully remember God’s saving acts, we must sanctify the time. If we do not, then the next generation may forget the Faith.
Recommended for further study: