In the Old Covenant, Israelites were required by God to observe the weekly Sabbath and to attend three yearly feasts wherever they lived, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. At Passover, in the spring, Israel celebrated and was reminded of God’s great deliverance for them at Exodus. Fifty days later at Pentecost, or first fruits, Israel gave thanks to the Lord for His ongoing provision for their every need. At the end of summer was the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, which reminded the Israelites of the wilderness wanderings and eventual arrival into the Promised Land.
Colossians 2:16, 17 declares that all of these feasts were shadowy images pointing to Jesus and now have been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true Passover lamb and leads us out of the ultimate Exodus from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead at Passover. At Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill His disciples creating the Church. Through the work of the Holy Spirit our eyes are opened to see how God provides all we need and leads us into true thankfulness and love for Him. The New Testament reveals that in Christ we have indeed come to the true Promised Land, eternal life, and look forward to putting of the tabernacle of this body and putting on the resurrection body at the culmination of history.
All of this is celebrated every Sunday, which is the New Covenant Sabbath, the only required New Covenant Feast. The weekly Sabbath is changed and all the other feasts are brought to their maturity in our Sunday worship. But this does not mean that yearly celebrations of the life of Christ are unprofitable. In the history of the church a wonderful tradition has developed of celebrating events in the life of Christ for half the year and the other half devoted to the growth and advance of the kingdom of God through the work of the Church.
Interestingly, these celebrations roughly follow the Apostles Creed. Advent starts the church year four Sunday’s before the celebration of Jesus birth at Christmas. The next big celebration begins at Lent, forty days before the celebration of Jesus' resurrection at Easter. Forty days after this we celebrate the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and His Ascension to His throne at the right hand of the Father from where He rules heaven and earth. And finally, this first half of the year ends at Pentecost. All these “feasts” are great ways to celebrate our salvation in Christ and help to organize our lives around the Gospel and are indicative of a culture maturing in Christ. May God grant the church a growing, joyful observance of each of these New Covenant feasts.