About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sacred Time and Calendars

What is the first thing God made Holy? Time. During the Creation at the close of every day, God said ‘It is good’. On Day 3 He said it was good twice. No explanation as to why is given. So, Day 3 of the week, that’s Tuesday, is known in the Jewish tradition as the Day of Double Blessing, because God had blessed that day twice. It’s the day of the week in which people get married, big business decisions are signed and it’s the day people go out and purchase lottery tickets. We see in the Gospel of John, Jesus’s first miracle of Water into Wine is introduced by saying, ‘On the third day of the week, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.’  John 2vs1

However, on Day 7 of Creation, God changed His description of the day. On Day 7 He makes the Sabbath and declares ‘This is Holy’. The first thing God makes Holy is Time. In particular the time known as the Sabbath. Time is very important to God and special Time is Holy. 

What is the first command God gives His people when they leave Egypt and cross the Red Sea? Go make a calendar! (That’s a paraphrase) In Exodus 12 the Lord commands the people to start a Calendar system, naming Aviv as the first month of the year. In this new calendar His people are commanded to mark the 14th of Aviv as Passover and to celebrate the Passover every year. Further on in the Torah, God sets out a list of Feasts and Festivals in Leviticus 23. 

Leviticus 23 presents a religious and agrarian based calendar for God’s people to follow. These are aptly named the Feasts of the Lord. Not the Feasts of Israel. These are God’s appointed times, and there are many blessings for the believer in keeping, engaging and celebrating these Holy Times. Both for the Jewish and gentile Believer. Some have argued that because Thanksgiving and Christmas do not appear on this list in Lev 23, we should not celebrate them. However we should note that both Purim and Hanukkah are not included in Lev 23 and yet we find Jesus at the festival of Hanukkah in Jerusalem (John 10). Somehow new Feasts and Festivals had entered the Jewish Calendar. Is that OK we ask ourselves? 

The Jewish Calendar has had several changes over its history. All Calendars do. The current Jewish Calendar months are named after Babylonian gods. The names were incorporated into the calendar during the Babylonian exile. For example, in Exodus the month of Passover is called Aviv, referring to the month in which barley was ripe. After Babylon the month is called Nisan. The Book of Esther, occurring after the Babylonians and during Persian reign, names the month as Nisan. At the end of the Esther story a new Feast has been added to the Calendar. A new precedence had been introduced. ’These days should be remembered and observed in every generation and in every family …’ Esther 10vs28 

Further more, in Exodus 12 the month of Aviv/Nisan was declared by God to be the first month and thus Rosh HaShanah, the start of the year, was to be in Aviv which is the Spring. During the Babylonian captivity Jewish people adopted the pagan practice of celebrating the New Year in the Fall. And thus the current Jewish Calendar now has the New Year in the Fall. Does this mean then that the Jewish Calendar needs to be abandoned because it includes the names of Pagan gods? Obviously 14 million Jewish People around the world, with all the Rabbis and Sages though history don't seem to think so. 

Hanukkah is a great celebration of redemption, dedication and God’s provision. But it too is not in the Levitical list. Rather the book that details the actual events the holiday celebrates is not in the Hebrew Bible at all. It is in the Catholic Bible. Yet Hanukkah also is added to the list of Sacred Times. Again the precedent has been set by the Jewish People that the Calendar can be adjusted as God moves in History. 

Sacred Time holds a very important function in our daily life. Feasts and Festival help us in remembering what God has done. We can get so distracted with the trials and stress of life that we forget the important things of God. Holy Time brings us back to a place to stop and remember what God has done. And God has done amazing things. The Birth of the Messiah, Saviour and Redeemer, is a wondrous act of the Lord. We should celebrate and remember that great act of redemption and love. As those who are grafted in, we can look at the Root and we can see that the Jewish People have added new Festivals as they saw God move and engage in the world. 

I would encourage you to not get caught up in legalistic distractions over pagan names for Jewish months, Christian calendars, winter solstices or the pagan names of Easter. When in truth it is all about the intention of the heart of the worshipper. Celebrating Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are great things to do. Bringing family and friends together. Remembering the wondrous saving acts of God and in so doing, giving Him the Glory for His amazing Love. Time is very important to God and Sacred Time is Holy.