UPDATE for 2017. Purim starts sundown Saturday, March 11th this year.
There is a growing movement among Christians: many are casting off traditional American holidays for the Biblical Feasts, Fasts and Festivals. One of the festivals is the holiday of Purim.
If you are not too familiar with Purim, if you have considered celebrating it, or are simply curious, I am going to give a quick historical overview of the holiday and then share how our church community is celebrating it this year.
Purim and The Story Of Esther
The Book of Esther is (usually) the last book of the Old Testament. It is the final story of God’s people before we jump to the New Testament and the stories of Jesus and the Apostles. In this book, we find the Jews have been taken captive and are now fairly integrated within Persia. Some Jews have been given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild, but many stay, having lived there for so long. Esther, under the care of her cousin Mordecai, are some of the people that stayed.
The King of the time, one of the line of Xerxes, has been offended by his wife and exiles her. He then sends out servants to gather up the most beautiful women in the kingdom to search for a new wife and Queen. Esther ends up being one of these women.
Skipping forward a bit, we two crucial things have happened: Esther has been chosen to be Queen and her cousin Mordecai has fallen afoul of the King’s right hand man, Hayman. Hayman has manipulated the King into using the “purim,” (a casting of lots) to set a date to have the Jews in the kingdom killed! What God knows, and Hayman doesn’t, is that Esther is actually a Jewess named Hadassah, and she will risk her life (after some prayer and fasting) to ask the King to save her people.
As Esther approaches the King uninvited (an act punishable by death), we reach the moment of tension: has God interceded enough to make everything work for the good? Through a stirring at night, the King had a servant read some records of previous actions and was reminded that Mordecai had saved his life! So, he give Mordecai a procession the next day and Mordecai is now on his heart. His heart, for whatever reason, is also open to Esther approaching him and he pardons her when she does. She invites him and Hayman to dinner and then tells them what has transpired, asking, begging for the life of her and her people.
After the King grants her request and the Jews are able to preserve their lives, Mordecai, at the prompting of the Lord, declares the day a holiday for all Jews to celebrate and they call it Purim.
Why Do Christians Celebrate Purim
- Some Christians see that Romans Chapter 11 speaks of Gentiles being grafted into Israel, and therefore Christians are also partakers in all Israel’s blessings, commandments, etc… Which means we, Gentiles, become part of Israel, and whatever was commanded to the Nation by God / Jesus, we should also do.
- Some Christians simply see the richness of their faith and knowledge of God increase when they learn about and participate in these feasts and other Biblical practices. The story of Esther is all about God knowing what will happen, allowing certain events to play out, and directing the hearts of that will allow Him to, to bring about a good ending. It is a great, faith increasing story.
- At the minimum, learning about Purim makes a great homeschool project / event to learn Biblical History.
How Does Our Community Celebrate Purim
Update 2017: This year our community will be having a Purim hoedown. Think Esther done Western Stlye, cowboy and cowgirl outifts, chilie and pie baking contests, and square dancing at the end of the night. I can’t wait to see what they do with the play!
My church community is a Messianic / Hebrew roots community, so we tend to lean towards view number 1. This year, our Purim celebration will include:
- Mediterranean & Middle Eastern food
- Persian costumes
- A venue decorated (by the community) as an Ancient Persian Marketplace, including a live camel! There will be products sold in the marketplace as a fundraiser to support an Israel based charity.
- 6 plays of the story Esther, done with different themes (i.e. Star Wars, Cinderella, a rap song, etc….). The plays can not be longer than 5 minutes and will be done by small groups on a “theater in the round.”
- Great fellowship and outreach to the community.
Previous years have included a masquerade ball and the story of Esther done as improve theater. Purim is one of the more fun, celebratory holidays.
For Further Study
Want to learn more about Purim? This year, I have created a free App for Android and other devices (Kindle, Fire).
There is a very limited selection of books on the market for learning about the various Biblical Holidays. The one I am the most familiar with is: A Family Guide To the Biblical Holidays.
Amazon: A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays
There is also: A Complete Guide to Celebrating Our Messiah In The Festivals.
Amazon: A Complete Guide to Celebrating Our messiah in the Festivals
I recently found a Healthy Purim Cookbook on Amazon!