Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Seventh and Final in a series
Celebrating special days introduces punctuation that may serve to enliven the habitual practice of worship. Every essay needs at least a few sentences with exclamation points!
I’m in favor of celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas and of commemorating Good Friday, and of meeting together to fast for our nation as special occasions in the church calendar. Easter and Pentecost always fall on Sunday, and should have an honored remembrance.
The great divide of the church between Protestant and Roman Catholic in the 17th century led to multitudes of divisions. Even Luther and Calvin had differences including whether to observe feast days.
Here are four reasons why I think that such commemorations are good:
1. FOR GOD: Unity
It is good for brothers to dwell together in unity. Even though Christian churches and denominations go separate ways on many points of doctrine, we could dwell in unity on these holidays. Granted, the Orthodox Church celebrates these holidays on different dates, but at least they do celebrate them. Common times of celebration also facilitate family reunions.
2. FOR OTHERS: Evangelism
Laying special focus on the incarnation, birth, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the Lord and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost by commonly observing them in worship at traditional times in the calendar year permits a strong evangelical witness to the community and the world. Special days of thanksgiving support this witness. The world learns the basics of our faith in this way.
3. FOR THE CONFESSIONAL CHRISTIAN: Carrying forward the spirit of the law
The Westminster Confession explains that though God's covenant with man was administered differently in Old and New Testament days, it was one and the same covenant. (Chapter VII ) There is great enjoyment and edification when we view Old and New Testament truth as seamless.
We understand that the substance of the types and ordinances that foreshadowed Christ were plainly revealed when the Word was made flesh. Because we perceive a continuum, we might also ask: Though the ceremonial aspects of 'the law' no longer are to be enforced, was the practice of special thanksgivings at appointed times of the year to be abandoned? Or, does this not suggest a framework for us to model?
The Hebrews were commanded to join at certain seasons to remember the mighty acts of God and to rest from work. It is the nature of man to be forgetful and to discount or gloss over what is not stressed as being of utmost importance. By the Feasts, God reinforced to his people what they should be most thankful for. (See previous post.) Should we today not continue this pattern?
4. FOR OURSELVES: Joy and Rest
A Christian pastor and author has stated in regard to the Feasts of the Hebrews, “We see here also the great social good God intended in the Sabbath and in the Feasts; in other ancient cultures, there was no day off, and there were no holidays. Here, God commands both holidays and ‘vacation days’ - all centered on Him!” - David Guzik
Centered on Him, held in common, enjoyed in fellowship.