I would like to share a little bit of my heart with you today. A sister was feeling a bit confused recently, a bit melancholy over things from her past. After seeing something from her old church, it brought back happy memories which made her “pine” for the way things “used to be.” She even felt concerned about whether or not her Torah path was the right one. Two of her thoughts have stuck with me:
~ Seeing these things from the past “Makes me wish for a spiritual life without all this opposition.”
~ How can I know if my new path is right?
Have you ever felt that way? Felt as if everything you do meets great opposition from friends and family which makes you question deeply if you have made the right decision.
In this Torah walk, it seems like we are hit from all sides sometimes with people’s opinions of our choice to live more biblically centered, not just following man-made traditions. We can be told it is everything from wrong to stupid, or anything in between. Sometimes people are not kind, not by any means. We can try to be as gentle and loving in our new choices as Yeshua would have been, but some people just don’t like what we do, our strong faith, or who we have become.
Two of the roughest times of the year, in my opinion, are Christmas and Easter. America is SO used to celebrating these holidays as mega-events with gifts and parties, dinners and events. If you choose not to attend any of these events, you often are accused of not being “normal.” Have you ever had that moment at a family get together where everyone starts talking about their last big family holiday dinner together? Everyone is remembering that time when so-and-so said this, or such-and-such did that, laughing and joking, then someone looks at you, gets sullen faced and blurts out, “Oh, yeah. YOU weren’t there because YOU don’t celebrate Easter (or Christmas).” Then suddenly it seems the nature of the conversation has changed because “the weird one” is there. Does any of that seem or feel familiar?
It is difficult when we leave our old churches or former belief systems. Many of us feel that we have to give up EVERYTHING that is Godly from them, even the truths that we learned, just to cut ourselves off from the false doctrines. When we leave behind false teachings like Christmas and Easter, many often also toss out everything that was comfortable and often these are things we found joyful at one point in our lives. Then when we discover our love for the feast days and Sabbath, we feel happy yet also out of place. We want to share it with all our old friends and our family, and yet often they will not be a part of what we now know.
For me growing up, Christmas was THE holiday in my family. We did it big - Dad took us out into the woods, we picked and cut a tree, he put the lights on, we all sang carols and decorated it while we had cocoa and cookies. He lit a HUGE yule log in the old fireplace. Even when we moved to Tucson when I was a teen, he HAD to have a house with a fire place so he could light his yule log. Oh, my goodness! Some winters he lit that log, and we opened all the windows and turned on fans because it was so doggone hot! Dad loved Christmas traditions.
We baked cookies with mom for a month, delivered them to friends and relatives, and then between Christmas and New Years we had parties galore. Then there were the visits to every aunt, uncle, cousin, and friend of the family. It was a BIG deal, and a huge part of my memory.
When I had kids of my own, I started the same traditions, and then added our own. Every year we baked and decorated gingerbread houses and delivered them to friends. The season was SO packed full of activities – caroling, watching Christmas programs on TV, we even drove around the neighborhoods and looked at all the houses decorated with all the lights. I have SO many memories as a child, teen and mother with my own kids.
When we “gave up Christmas”, the first year was actually easiest for me. Family and friends just thought we were weird, going through a “phase.” The second one, not so much. By this time, some friends and family had become aggressive in their opinions and began pressuring us to celebrate Christmas, one even demanding that we be present at their event. The third year, it seemed the emotional manipulations really got hard and heavy. It felt as though some people were trying to say, “GEEZ! Aren’t you done with that phase now? Let’s get back to Christmas!” Now here we are years later, and this last two have been very hard.
I know that using the term “emotional manipulations” might set some people off, but that is exactly what happens. Some will pull out all the stops, using your memories from your childhood, your elderly Aunt Ethel, or any number of other strings to pull at your emotions with the hope of pressuring you into doing what they want from you. The good-old-fashioned guilt-trip.
At first, I thought maybe these last two holiday seasons were rougher because we moved away by ourselves, out of state. Yet that isn’t really it. It occurred to me that our moving didn’t affect how we look at Christmas, but it did affect how others look at us during the Christmas season. These last two years we have gotten an exorbitant amount of pressure to come “home” for the holiday. Even though we don’t celebrate it, the pressure seems to say, “This is what is easiest for all of us back here. We all think you need to come here to us because it is convenient for us.”
Sadly, this last Christmas, we even had a hurtful moment happen where a promise was made to us because family was all going to be together for a big family dinner. They were going to call so we could talk to everyone all at once. We waited and waited. Hours past, finally we called to ask if dinner was done yet. Only to learn that everyone had left hours earlier and when we questioned about the promise, we very sadly were told it shouldn’t matter because “YOU don’t celebrate Christmas.” It wasn’t Christmas that we wanted. It was to talk with everyone who was going to be there for dinner because that was the only time all year that everyone was together.
Suddenly it was as if we were being told that unless we follow everyone else in the family, we will be punished, ostracized, shunned. At that moment, I really started to question if we are right in our feelings about the holiday. Maybe we SHOULD just go back to celebrating it. Just Christmas. I found myself feeling just as my friend does – couldn’t we make it just family time together and it would be without all the opposition. . .I even asked myself, How could so much opposition be the right thing?
The more I prayed about it, the more it felt WRONG to celebrate Christmas. I was so very confused. I do miss all the smells, the songs, the fun with the kids, I miss going to historical towns and seeing the homes decorated, all the sights and sounds and smells. I miss it all so much sometimes I physically ACHE inside for those memories to be real again. Yet, even though I still miss it so very much, I can't bring myself to do it. Yahweh told us to not celebrate pagan things IN HIS NAME. And of all the American celebrations that we have, Easter and Christmas are the most pagan of them all and THEY ARE DONE IN HIS NAME. I can’t celebrate them. No matter how deep the emotions and memories run, I cannot do them.
It is SO ingrained in us, such a part of our memories, and we can all recall some truly blessed times wrapped up in that neat little package we call Christmas or Easter. But it all boils down to one question: is the doctrine correct? What is true? It isn't easy on our hearts sometimes to stay the line and follow the straight and narrow path but is it wrong or is it RIGHT to stay in Torah. THAT is the question you have to ask yourself.
Some days it will be difficult, other days it will hurt like heck, but I know deep in my spirit that following a Torah Observant lifestyle IS right.
Torah observance isn't the reason we follow Torah. In other words, we don’t follow Torah as a score-card, the legalistic way, putting every check mark in every box on our Feast Day check list. We don’t follow Torah because it is easy or for salvation. Yeshua is the reason we follow Torah. When we accept him, that is supposed to work a true and righteous change in our heart. That change is supposed to make us want to live like Yeshua - always loving, sometimes stern, sometimes heavy handed, but always kind. We don’t follow Torah to be better than someone else, or more righteous than another. We don't follow Torah to BE righteous. Once we accept Yeshua, we follow Torah BECAUSE we are righteous. It is a change of heart.
Would I be tempted to go back to Christmas again? Probably at some point. And as my friend feels pulled to return to her old church lifestyle, I asked myself if I would want to return, too, if I felt those same pulls that she does? Yes, I probably would. But would I go?
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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