These two holidays so rich in meaning, culture and tradition, serve as such a poignant reminder of the goodness of God, His rich mercy and great grace, and the blessing and joys of new beginnings and abundant life.
There are many things the Christian can learn from the Jewish observances of these special days set apart that can help us in our walk as Christians.
They can be wonderful opportunities to re-affirm God’s role as King of all the Universe, to be reminded that our blessings come from His hand alone, and that He is a great God, and a gracious God as well.
These are life-giving opportunities to stop, pause and ask God afresh to search our hearts, try us and see if there is any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. Though as Christians, this is a vital part of our daily walk with Him already - keeping short accounts, forgiveness always at hand, and all IOU’s torn completely up – it is a gentle reminder to follow in His footsteps, stay as close as we can, so that we too may say just as Jesus did, “satan came and he found nothing in Me”.
It is an opportunity to make right those things that may be out of order, and look for ways to begin afresh, with Him and with each other. We are reminded of the importance of new beginnings, not only the yearly kind, but the moment by moment, day by day, transformation kind of new beginnings and freedom that only He can give.
As we look at all He promises in the Old Testament, our hearts our stirred afresh with love and thanksgiving, for we as New Testament believers are walking in the very substance of all that He has promised! That is something we can celebrate each and every new day!
We rejoice that our sins are not just covered over, they are completely removed! As far as the east is from the west, to be remembered no longer, and that this God, the God of all creation, has mercies for us all - mercies that are new every morning.
John J. Parsons of Hebrews for Christians (http://www.hebrew4christians.com) does an excellent job of teaching on the history and the significance of these two days, and adds in the richness that can be appreciated by all.
Additional information and revelation is also available at Christianity.about.com and the following are some excerpts from their teachings:
The 8 Most Important Things to Know About Rosh Hashanah
1. The Jewish New Year
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and according to Jewish tradition marks the anniversary of the creation of the world. The phrase Rosh Hashanah literally translates to "Head of the Year." Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (which usually falls sometime in September or October on the secular calendar). As the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a celebratory holiday but there are also deeper spiritual meanings tied to the holiday.
2. Judgment Day
Jewish tradition teaches that Rosh Hashanah is also the Day of Judgment. On Rosh Hashanah, God is said to inscribe the fate of every person for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or the Book of Death. The verdict is not final until Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, during which Jews reflect upon their actions over the past year and seek forgiveness for their transgressions in hopes of influencing God's final judgment.
3. Teshuvah (Repentance) and Forgiveness
The Hebrew word for "sin" is "chet," which is derived from an old archery term used when an archer "misses the mark." This informs the Jewish view of sin: all people are essentially good and sin is a product of our errors, or missing the mark, as we are all imperfect. A critical part of Rosh Hashanah is making amends for these sins and seeking forgiveness.
Teshuvah (literally "returning") is the process by which Jews atone on Rosh Hashanah and throughout the Ten Days of Awe. Jews are required to seek forgiveness from people that they may have wronged over the past year before seeking forgiveness from God. Teshuvah is a multi-step process for demonstrating true repentance. First one must recognize that they have made a mistake and genuinely desire to change for the better. They must then seek to make amends for their actions in a sincere and meaningful way, and finally demonstrate they have learned from their mistakes by not repeating them. When a Jew is sincere in his or her efforts at teshuvah, it is the responsibility of other Jews to offer forgiveness during the Ten Days of Awe.
4. Mitzvah of the Shofar
The essential mitzvah (commandment) of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar. The shofar is generally made from a hollowed out ram's horn that is then blown like a trumpet on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (except when the holiday falls on a Shabbat, in which case the shofar is not sounded). There are several different shofar calls used on Rosh Hashanah. The tekiah is one long blast. The teruah is nine short blasts. The shevarim is three blasts. And the tekiah gedolah is a single long blast, much longer than the plain tekiah.
5. Apples and Honey
There are many Rosh Hashanah food customs but the most common is the dipping of apples into honey, which is meant to signify our wishes for a sweet new year.
6. Festive Meal (Seudat Yom Tov)
A festive meal shared with family and friends to celebrate the New Year is central to the Rosh Hashanah holiday. A special round loaf of challah, which symbolizes the cycle of time, is generally served and dipped in honey with a special prayer for a sweet new year.
7. "L'Shana Tovah"
The traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting appropriate for Jewish friends on Rosh Hashanah is "L'Shana Tovah" or simply "Shana Tovah" which loosely translates as "Happy New Year." Literally you are wishing them a good year (see item 2 above). For a longer greeting you can use "L'Shana Tovah u'Metukah," wishing someone a "good and sweet year."
On Rosh Hashanah, many Jews may follow a custom called tashlich ("casting off") in which they walk to a naturally flowing body of water such as a river or stream, recite several prayers, reflect upon their sins over the past year and symbolically cast them off by throwing their sins into the water (usually by throwing pieces of bread into the stream). Originally taschlich developed as an individual custom, though many synagogues now organize a special tashlich service for their congregants to perform the ceremony together.
Jesus and Rosh Hashanah:
Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Day of Judgment. At the Final Judgment spoken of in Revelation 20:15, we read that "anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." The book of Revelation also speaks of this Book of Life as belonging to the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:27).
The New Testament reveals in John 5:27 that the Father has given his Son, Jesus, authority to judge everyone, and 2 Timothy 4:1 says that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Jesus told his followers in John 5:24, "I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." Therefore, through our acceptance of His sacrifice and atonement for sin, Jesus has become the fulfillment of this Old Testament feast so closely associated with repentance and judgment.
Paul said in Colossians 2:16-17 that the Jewish feasts and celebrations were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ. And though as Christians we may not commemorate these holidays in the traditional biblical sense, as we discover the significance of each, we will certainly gain a greater knowledge of God's Word, an improved understanding of the Bible, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement:
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is the most solemn and important holy day of the Jewish calendar. In the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement was the day the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. This act of atonement brought reconciliation between the people and God. After the blood sacrifice was offered to the Lord, a goat was released into the wilderness to symbolically carry away the sins of the people. This "scapegoat" was never to return.
Time of Observance:
Yom Kippur is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (September or October).
The observance of the Day of Atonement is recorded in the Old Testament book of Leviticus 16:8-34; 23:27-32.
About Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement:
Yom Kippur was the only time during the year when the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the innermost chamber of the Temple (or Tabernacle) to make atonement for the sins of all Israel. Atonement literally means "covering." The purpose of the sacrifice was to bring reconciliation between man and God (or "at-onement" with God) by covering the sins of the people.
Today, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of repentance, when Jews express remorse for their sins through prayer and fasting. Yom Kippur is the final day of judgment, when each person's fate is sealed by God for the upcoming year.
Jewish tradition tells how God opens the Book of Life and studies the words, actions, and thoughts of every person whose name he has written there. If a person's good deeds outweigh or outnumber their sinful acts, his or her name will remain inscribed in the book for another year. On Yom Kippur, the ram's horn (shofar) is blown at the end of evening prayer services for the first time since Rosh Hashanah.
Jesus and Yom Kippur:
The Tabernacle and the Temple gave a clear picture of how sin separates us from the holiness of God. In Bible times, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies by passing through the heavy veil that hung from ceiling to floor, creating a barrier between the people and the presence of God. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter and offer a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of the people. However, at the very moment when Jesus died on the cross, Matthew 27:51 says, "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split." (NKJV)
Hebrews chapters 8 and 9 beautifully explain how Jesus Christ became our High Priest and entered heaven (the Holy of Holies), once and for all, not by the blood of sacrificial animals, but by His own precious blood on the Cross. Christ himself was the atoning sacrifice for our sins; thus, He obtained for us eternal redemption! As believers we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Yom Kippur, the final atonement for sin.
When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Jewish people could no longer present the required sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, so it came to be observed as a day of repentance, self-denial, charitable works, prayer and fasting.
Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath. No work is done on this day. Source: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays
We thank God for His faithfulness to all people and to all generations. We pray that our eyes would be open afresh this month, to see Him as Lord God, Creator of all; that our hearts would be filled with thanksgiving and great love because our sins have been forgiven; and that great shouts of joy would be released as our names are written forever, sealed by His own blood, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Now that is definitely worth celebrating!