Christmas – 26 Dec 2011

The Light has come, and the daylight begins to push away the darkness of winter days.  Spring must be in the air!

From the beginning till the end of the year, our Lord and God watches over His people and His land! (Dt 11:12)  God ‘found’ His Sabbath rest in His Son, who came to bring the old order of things to an end that the light of a new way and day could be brought to mankind.

At our Shabbat service, we celebrated the Festival of Lights, giving priority to the true Light who is eternal that came into the world to push back the darkness, over the temporal Hanukah lights of candles or oil which must be continually watched over to remain lit before they eventually do burn out.  As is our custom, we lit all of the candles on the hanukia (the menora or lampstand of Hanukah), as a visual testimony to the truth that the full light of God has come into the world through His Son, and He has made us light in the darkness).  The Lord’s Supper was also a wonderful part of the service — remembering Yeshua’s death until He comes. 

Being that we have many different cultures and languages among our congregation of Yeshua’s Inheritance, there was a presentation of songs by some of the different groups — such as Hebrew, Spanish, English, Russian, Korean, Burmese.  That which began at Pentecost with different tongues all praising the living God together has grown and increased to multitudes of redeemed people from out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation by the blood of the Lamb, singing a new song to Yeshua who was slain to bring us to God the Father.  Hallelu-Yah!  Amen! (Rev 5:9)

With these two universally known Hebrew words — both of which speak of the true God and Savior (Rev 3:14) — we visited Bethlehem yesterday on Christmas Day with two other families from our congregation, and some medical students and other friends.  We went first to an Evangelical Church, where we have been going since 2003 — during the Intifada — as an expression of the reconciliation which we have through the cross, even though our peoples continue to be in a perpetual state of hostility with each other.

At the Arab church there I was asked to share some introductory words from my heart, and spoke of the hope we all have through the gospel, which includes that Jesus will come back again to bring the Kingdom of God to Israel and the rest of the world.  Political solutions will not satisfy the need for the righteousness of God, the peace which He gives, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  At the end of the service, I was asked to bless the elders and the church with the priestly blessing in Hebrew, the language of the ‘enemy’.  I gently reminded the brothers and sisters there to remember that the name of YEHOVAH God is still upon His people Israel, and asked them to pray for the Jewish Israeli people to honor His name and of His Son.  Then I blessed them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It was a very special time, and I thank the Lord that the pastor took the risk (and it is a risk!) to ask me for this honor.

After the service, we all (13 adults and 5 children) had a wonderful lunch at his home.  Then we went over to Beit Al Liqa — the extraordinary facility of the children’s ministry (of all ages) in Beit Jala.   There we enjoyed our final legendary hospitality of the rainy day, and were able to see how the work is still developing.  It was a very encouraging day, which only the Spirit of Messiah knows how to do!

The Whole World Revolves Around Jesus – 27 Dec 2003

John 1:1-5,10-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This past and coming week the whole world is reminded that Jesus Christ was born.  Not only did millions—perhaps billions—celebrate that this most unique person came into the world, but in a few days time, all will also acknowledge His influence when this year 2003 ends and the next 12-month period begins.  Modern history and global culture revolve around this Man—Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday I went up to Bethlehem with some of the medical students and my two sons.  As you remember, the congregational offering from a few weeks ago was set aside to help provide toys for children living in the Bethlehem area.  That was done, and there was a sense of joy and satisfaction in doing that in the name of the Lord Jesus.  I was able to visit the homes of some Palestinian Arab Christian friends who live in Beit Jala.  They were blessed and encouraged that someone “from the other side” would come during these times of troubles, and also be of one spirit with them to celebrate Jesus at this special time for believers.  With your permission, I was pleased to give them a gift from the congregation here to their children’s center, Beit Halika, to bless them in the work they do as believers.

The Manger Square, where the festivities of Christmas Eve take place, was full of people, but not as in earlier years before the intifada.  Despite being warned not to identify myself as an Israeli, God provided opportunities to do so, even to a policeman from Hebron with whom I had a conversation about the weather!  I could also testify of the birth of Jesus as the reason we came, when asked at the checkpoints.  They wouldn’t let me in as an Israeli, but as an American.  Praise God!  Even the apostle Paul found it helpful to have dual citizenships!

What was very evident at Manger Square was the political exploitation of the celebration of the Savior of the world to express anti-Israel slogans, whether hanging on banners from the roof and walls of buildings, or from the Christian patriarch at the midnight Church service, which was broadcast around the world.  Just as Israel did not receive her King Messiah when He was born until this day, so do many of those in the Church today still not know Him, who was born and died to be the King of the Jews.  The apostle John expressed it well:  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.  It is truly saddening to see the Glory of God being “darkened” by the false prophets of this world.  The Lord Jesus told us that His Kingdom is not of this world.  The Holy Spirit expressly says through the Scriptures that such would be the situation in these last days.

We who believe are called – not to be lukewarm, not to be nationalistic and militant, but rather to be witnesses of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the Son of God who is Heir of all things.

It is not certain what will come upon us during 2004.  We do know that the time will come for the one to be called the antichrist, and it is written of him that he will change the times and law (Dan 7:25).  Who knows, the day may come when the year will not be marked by the birth of Jesus by those in authority.  And even now, laws are proposed and passed to change laws in western Christian nations to make it illegal to publicly express or display faith in the one true God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

As we look ahead to the next year and wish for others and ourselves a “happy and good year”, let us bear in mind that what is happy and good according to the world or to our flesh is not necessarily what will make for a blessed year according to God our Savior.  He wants more people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  If you were to say that to unbelievers as you wish for them a happy and good year, they would not understand it that way!  The Lord wants us to grow more mature in the faith, and often that comes only through suffering – trials and tribulations – of some sort or other.  That is not what we usually consider as we wish each other, and ourselves, a good and happy year!

But God has a plan to bring honor and glory and praise to His Anointed One—Jesus—by whom all things were made, including us.  I do pray and wish for each one of you, and for all of us together, a good and blessed year for the sake of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Peace be upon Israel in our days!