How Is Jesus the Bridge Between Religious Traditions?
When my Jewish grandmother married a Roman Catholic, she signed a piece of paper at their Catholic wedding promising to raise their children in the Catholic faith. One of the effects of that promise was that the whole family celebrated Christmas. When I began to rediscover my Jewish heritage, I wondered why my family had never celebrated Hanukkah. Are you in a similar position where you are trying to figure out religious observance in a mixed family? Many families with mixed marriages have difficulties trying to figure out how to celebrate different traditions, and this sometimes leads to the family choosing one set of traditions over the other. That’s what happened in my family. But are we forced to choose one or the other? For example, can a Jewish person celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, especially coming from a mixed marriage? What does the Bible tell us to do?
It surprised me when I discovered that Yeshua celebrated the Jewish holidays. In John 10:22–24, we read that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukkah. He also celebrated Sukkot (John 7:2–3, 10), and the Gospel of John spends four chapters (13—16) detailing the Seder meal Yeshua had with his closest followers, which is commonly called The Last Supper.
In other words, if Yeshua celebrated the Jewish holidays, then why shouldn’t we?
That is exactly what we see with Paul, a rabbi who followed Yeshua and wrote many of the books of the New Testament. For instance, he traveled to Jerusalem for Shavuot, also known as Pentecost (Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). More than that, Paul saw a richer meaning in the Jewish holidays because of Yeshua’s coming. Take Passover, for instance. Paul called Yeshua “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) because he understood the sacrifice of the Passover lamb to be a foreshadowing of what Yeshua did for us through his death. Paul also attached new meaning to some of the traditional holiday customs. For instance, the spring-cleaning preparation for Passover to rid the house of yeast became a tangible reminder of the continual need to rid ourselves of any disobedience to God (1 Corinthians 5:7–8). In short, Paul celebrated the holidays not only for the historical events they commemorate, but also for the rich faith in Messiah which they help to facilitate.
So then, if you are trying to make sense of the holidays in a mixed marriage, remember that Jesus himself celebrated the Jewish holidays. Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations are not mutually exclusive. You can celebrate both! There are helpful resources for celebrating the Jewish holidays in a Messianic fashion. One good overview of the holidays and their Messianic observance is written by Daniel Fuchs, a former Director of Chosen People Ministries, entitled, Israel’s Holy Days in Type and Prophecy. You can purchase a copy by clicking here.