Happy Biblical New Year! (Spec. Days & Occasions)

Happy Biblical New Year ! ! !

In behalf of our Messianic Jewish Ministries “The Rock of Israel,” I would like to wish all of you the happiest and most blessed New Year, praying that the Glory of Jacob may fill your lives with His goodness, mercy and grace! If you count yourself among the people who celebrate Easter and Christmas as genuine spiritual holy days, then, most likely, you celebrated the New Year Day on January 1st and may never have heard that January 1st belongs in the same category as Easter and Christmas, namely with the rest of pagan festive celebrations!

According to the Word of the Most High, Nisan 1st is the official beginning of a new-year cycle for the people of God (see Exodus 12). This year, the LORD’s New Year falls on March 24th of the secular Western calendar. In addition to being the first month of the sacred Hebrew Calendar, the month of Nisan also abounds with many powerful spiritual days and solemn occasions. The chief of these is the eight-day Festival of the Passover, instituted by the God of Israel on the night before He led His people out of the slavery in Egypt! Since the Christian Church operates on the same pagan yearly cycle as the rest of the world, few within her are even aware of these potent spiritual events! As you turn this potentially new information over in your minds and check your Bibles for appropriate references, allow me to tell you a bit of personal testimony with regard to these special holidays.

My Holidays Experience . . .

A few years ago, when I was still part of a Christian denomination in Minneapolis, MN, I decided to preach on the topic of secular Gentile holidays versus their biblical counterparts. I began my series of teachings in the spring of that year with the goal of sharing with my parishioners how the LORD’s Holy Days, described in Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16 and many other passages in the Bible, were the special festive occasions that set the Holy People apart from the rest of pagan world. Together with my congregation we discovered that the Spring Festivals of the LORD (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Shavuot) found their unmistakable fulfillment in the life, ministry and death of Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiah. The Holy Scriptures enabled us to see that the Fall Feasts (Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles) were pointing to the future events that would transpire at the Second Coming of the King of the Jews! The depth of the spiritual insight coming from studying the Holy Days and the excitement of knowing that God was in control of human history and our individual destinies were truly amazing during those presentations.

Although many in my Seventh-day Adventist congregation were very happy to hear the new truths brought out of the treasure house of the Word of God, I could sense that the opposition to these “new things” was also beginning to mount among a few disaffected members of the church. As a result, I was soon challenged with the statement that I “should not propagate things that fit only for the Jews,” delivered to me by a couple of disgruntled council members. Frankly, I was puzzled by the fact that such clearly biblical teachings were labeled by the church as “for the Old Testament Jews only.” It was truly funny to observe how the church that staunchly defended the seventh-day Sabbath in the face of ridicule and opposition on the part of the rest of Christendom, used precisely the same arguments and tactics against the LORD’s Festivals of Leviticus 23 as did their Sunday-keeping twins when attacking the true Sabbath! Instead of referring to the Holidays by their proper biblical designation as “the Feasts of the LORD,” some of my Adventist friends started calling them “the Feasts of the Jews.” Whether the animosity toward these Feasts was prompted by the church’s deep-seated spiritual insecurity concerning her status before the God of Heaven or by the plain old anti-Semitism, the overall reaction that I was receiving from the denomination raised a big red flag for me and my family. We did not want to be part of any organization that harbored the spirit of anti-Semitism or begrudged its members the freedom for spiritual and intellectual quest.

Other Special Days . . .

As I have stated above, our teaching series on the biblical Holy Days approached the subject from both a positive perspective and its negative counterpoint as well. The positive perspective covered the Feasts of the LORD by revealing their scriptural roots, historical and spiritual significance in the life of the Jewish People and their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Israel’s Messiah. The negative side of our presentations dealt with the topic of pagan feasts and celebrations, many of which have made their way into the Western culture and its church and continued to enjoy some great popularity even to the present! I was pleasantly surprised, however, that many of my church members were well aware of the fact that Christmas had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ and everything to do with the ancient deity of the “Invincible Sun” (“Solus Invictus”), celebrated by pagans as part of their fertility cults long before the arrival of Christianity. The time of Winter Solstice, December 25th, was a natural choice in the eyes of superstitious pagans for the festive celebrations of the “rebirth of the Divine Sun god.”

Most were also cognizant of the truth that Christian holiday of Easter was nothing more than a baptized festival of the goddess “Ishtar,” – the Babylonian deity of fertility, war, love and sex. I am still mystified, by the way, why and how the rest of Christendom does not see that all the symbols of that pagan deity are well and alive in their church celebrations today: the sun-rise Easter worship service (ancient sun worship), Easter bunnies and egg hunts (symbols of fertility since times immemorial), hot buns or loaves of specially-shaped bread (symbolizing the male reproductive organ), etc.

Should such a deep level of paganization of the church surprise us? By no means! In fact, it would have been very surprising if the church did not have and heartily embrace all these pagan cultic elements and symbols. As we have noted in our study on Matthew 16:16-18 and in other places, every religious group of people that follows in the footsteps of the Mother Roman Catholic Church, belongs in the same camp of polytheism, worships the same deity of Trinity, venerates the same day of the sun (Sunday), and observes the same holidays (pagan cultic celebrations). What do you celebrate in your family?

Happy New Year? . . .

My greatest surprise, however, came close to the end of my tenure as pastor at that particular church. I was supposed to shepherd my congregation until December 31st of that year, after which I would go off to my second Seminary for a continuing education in history, theology and biblical languages. As a crowning piece of my series on Feasts, I decided to present to the attention of my parishioners a sermon on the New Year’s celebrations. . .

Growing up in the Soviet Union, the New Year’s Day was the biggest celebration of the entire year in our family and for millions of other Soviet citizens. When the ungodly Empire was formed in 1922, it disregarded its own Constitution and forbade the free exercise of religion or political opinion. Religious festivals of the Russian Orthodox Church, such as Christmas, Easter, Annunciation and saints’ days, were driven out of public arena and into the underground, where a small number of the “faithful’’ still practiced those pagan rites. Just as the Christian Church replaced the Jewish Holy Feasts with their pagan counterparts thousands of years before the existence of the Soviet Government, so did the newly-established Empire of Atheism did everything in its seemingly limitless power to replace the Church’s celebrations with the secular holidays!

As obedient and patriotic citizens of their beloved country, the Soviet people came to celebrate occasions such as: The International Day of Solidarity Among the Workers of the World (May 1st), The International Women Day (March 8th), The V-Day (May 9th), The Day of the Soviet Army and Its Navy (February 23d), The Great October Socialist Revolution (October 8th), Lenin’s Birthday (April 22nd), and, of course, the famous and most beloved New Year’s Day (December 31st). Although these holidays were introduced into the secular Soviet calendar as days of rest and recreation, they were also powerful indicators that the country’s government was in total control of its population and that by celebrating the new holidays the great unwashed masses of people were definitely bowing down to the might of the Soviet Empire! The same, by the way, is true for the biblical holidays of One True God and their counterfeits introduced by the Christian Church-State! The One, whose holidays we celebrate is the One whom we obey and worship! Have you ever thought about that?

During My Childhood . . .

For me personally, the New Year’s celebrations came to be associated with some of my fondest childhood memories. It was a season when my entire family would come together to celebrate the beginning of the New Year and say good-byes to the Old One. A big festive table, loaded with pork sausages and other pagan food, piles of presents under a richly decorated Fir Tree (the equivalent of Christmas Tree, of course), going to other people’s homes for singing carols and many other activities were all part and parcel of our joyful celebrations of the New Year’s Day! As far as I know, the New Year’s celebrations were among the most sacred of our traditions. First we did it simply because it was done by everybody else around us for hundreds of years; and then we did it primarily because we came to love that magical time of the year!

Unfortunately, at the time I was oblivious to the plain truths of God’s Holy Word. Take a listen to what it says about decorated trees in our houses: “Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. . .” (Jeremiah 10:1-4) – How about all those Christmas Trees in the church sanctuaries?

The LORD of Heaven, however, expects His people to grow up and become individuals capable of thinking for themselves and drawing their own sound decisions based on the Word of the Almighty, historical and experiential evidence and just plain common sense! The Apostle Paul corroborates this opinion in one of his pastoral letters: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (I Cor. 13:11-12) - I came to realize that my God was waiting for me to grow out of following the crowd and start walking on my own two feet! I had to reexamine the very foundations of my life and faith. Have you done the same in your life?

Therefore, on nearing the end of my stay at the church, I decided that notwithstanding the personal warm memories of those family celebrations, their seemingly innocent nature, the beautiful Fir Trees with colorful presents under them, I had to share with my congregants the origins and implications of pagan feast days. I am willing to share my thoughts with you as well.

The Julian Calendar

The celebrations of the New Year's Day did not always fall on January 1st. In fact, many European countries did not accept this date for their New Year festivities until fairly recently. The switch to January 1st as the official start to a new year was accomplished with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar on February 24, 1582. Introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, the calendar was not an entirely new thing altogether. It was based on the old Julian calendar that went into effect in the year 45 BCE. So, what was created by one “Pontificus Maximus” about 45 years before the birth of Christ, was re-introduced to the world by another Pontiff in 1582 CE! This fact should not surprise us, for the Pagan Rome had gradually given way to its Papal Image, with the rest of the system remaining pretty much the same! The question is: “Why make such a big deal about celebrating the New Year according to the Julian or Gregorian calendar?” In other words, “What is wrong with celebrating our New Year on January 1st?”

The month of January is named after the Roman god of Janus. In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He is also the deity of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. Throughout the vast Roman Empire Janus was believed to preside over the beginning of a new year. Thus, starting on January 1st and continuing through the first month of the New Year, the pagan worshippers within the Empire would pay homage and give glory and praise to the two-headed god of new beginnings, whose good auspices they were seeking for the entire year. Whose auspices are you seeking today? Does your god have more than one head? (hint: Trinity).

As we have stated above, the festive days and special occasions point to the power that ordained them. If the One who gave them is the LORD God of Israel, the choice is clear and unambiguous, - “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. . .‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.” (Lev. 23:1-2,4)

By the same token, all who willingly join in celebrating Christmas, Easter and other Church festivities, are obediently submitting to the will, power and destiny of the Roman Catholic Church. Having studied with us for some time now, however, you should know that her future and the destiny of her daughter-churches are not all that bright! Also, by following this line of reasoning, we may conclude that all who engage in celebrating ancient pagan holidays, such as the New Year’s Day of January 1, become unwitting conscripts in the army of idolaters who separate themselves from the Source of Life – the Holy One of Israel! As you can see now, nothing is as innocent and inconsequential as it may seem on the surface of things!

The Enemy of all humanity and his sprawling network of fallen menials are working overtime to ensnare the unsuspecting into their pit of idolatry: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9) So, what Feasts and Special Days are you going to celebrate this year? Is it going to be the LORD’s Feasts or the pagan celebrations of the Church and secular calendar? You have a choice to make!

In conclusion of our today’s reflection, therefore, allow our Messianic Jewish Ministries to wish you a Happy Real New Year according to the biblical calendar of the Holy One of Jacob! In Exodus 12 we read: ”Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. . .” (Ex. 12:1)- May this year bring you closer to the Rock of Israel and may His grace and mercy sustain you on the way!