The wondrous day when God came to ‘tabernacle’ with us
By Charles Gardner, Special to ASSIST News Service
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS — Dec. 21, 2015) — As billions around the world celebrate Christmas (literally: Feast of the Messiah), it’s worth remembering where it all began – for its roots are in the Land of Israel, which is not always obvious in a politically-correct world where Jesus (Yeshua) has been significantly Westernized.
Jews around the world have just celebrated Hanukkah, and now Christians and Messianic believers will be focusing on the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. I believe there is an indelible connection between the two and it makes perfect sense that Hanukkah should be closely linked with Christmas.
Hanukkah marks God’s intervention at another dark period of Jewish history, in the second century BC, when Judah Maccabee and his small fighting force defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek Empire and the menorah burned miraculously for eight days with only enough oil for a day. God provided both the military victory, and the light of his presence!
So it was that the festival, which Jesus himself experienced, had paved the way for his coming – firstly, as a babe in a manger, and finally as King of Kings and Lord of Lords when, at the close of this age, he returns to Jerusalem to set up his rule on earth.
The Festival of Lights prepared the way for the coming into the world of the “true light” – no wonder our evergreen trees are festooned with lights. When Christians celebrate Advent (Latin for ‘coming to’) in the weeks leading up to Christmas, they focus on the second, as well as the first, coming of Messiah. And in a world full of violence particularly bent on the destruction of God’s people, we know that his second coming is near. And it will have been preceded – in 1948, 1967 & 1973 – by military victories against all odds for modern Israel. In this respect, I am much encouraged by new Mossad chief Yossi Cohen who reminds us that a nation chosen of God needs to seek divine help at this time.
The Apostle John, in the prologue to his gospel, said “the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world”. (John 1.9 – New Testament) He was speaking of Yeshua, who was to say of himself: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12) He was also the Word become flesh who made his dwelling among us, or who came to tabernacle among us, as this verse has also been translated. (John 1.14)
John referred to Hanukkah as the Feast of Dedication, and it was during the festival that Jesus was asked when he would reveal that he was the Messiah. He answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me…” (John 10.25) He was saying that his miracles (healing the sick, cleansing the leper, raising the dead) testify to who he is, just as the menorah miracle testified to God’s intervention on an earlier occasion!
But there is so much misinformation, propaganda and confusion even around the true roots of the Christmas celebration, so taken up with trees in today’s world. The Wise Men from the Orient came asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2.2) Yet we are led to believe, by many politicians and media outlets, that the Jews have no historic connection to the land we know today as Israel; that they have ‘stolen’ it from the Palestinians.
The famous carol The First Nowell (an old spelling of ‘Noel’, French for Christmas) includes the refrain ‘Born is the King of Israel’. And the prophet foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem in Judea – in the heart of Israel, just a few miles from Jerusalem. (Micah 5.2) Mary and Joseph had to travel there from their home in Nazareth (70 miles to the north) to be registered for the census called by the occupying Romans – because Joseph was a descendant of King David, and Bethlehem was David’s town. That’s why we sing the carols Once in royal David’s city and O little town of Bethlehem…
If you wish to find out more about the true meaning of Christmas, why not visit Christ Church at Jaffa Gate in the Old City where special services attract thousands each year? Is it not now time to recognize the true light who will overcome a world in darkness and bring peace on earth and goodwill to all men?
Had the present political arrangements applied on that first Christmas, the holy family would probably have been denied admission to the little town of Bethlehem as it is now part of the disputed territories of the so-called West Bank. But of course it was the Jews who, 2,000 years ago, were displaced and subjugated, the Romans later re-naming their country Palestina (a derivation of Philistine) after Israel’s old enemies as a final insult to the people whose nation they had destroyed, causing the Jews to be dispersed to the four corners of the earth.
Yeshua knew all this would happen. He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24.2), which came just a generation after his earthly ministry. But his greatest longing is that the Jewish people, through whom and to whom he came, would finally recognize and embrace him as a nation. He knew that fierce battles would be fought over Jerusalem in the lead-up to his return. So we pray that, as the Jewish state is surrounded on all sides by threats of terror, its people would hearken to the plea of Yossi Cohen and turn to the God of Israel for help.
The carol Once in royal David’s city includes these awesome lines: “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all…” Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).” (Isaiah 7.14) Then turn to the next chapter and discover how the threats of all who oppose Israel will be thwarted, “for God is with us”. (Isaiah 8.10)
God is with you, O Israel! Welcome him into your hearts.
Photo captions: 1) Christ Church garden. (Charles Gardner). 2) Chalres and Linda Gardner.
About the writer: Charles Gardner is a veteran Cape Town-born British journalist working on plans to launch a new UK national newspaper reporting and interpreting the news from a biblical perspective. With his South African forebears having had close links with the legendary devotional writer Andrew Murray, Charles is similarly determined to make an impact for Christ with his pen and has worked in the newspaper industry for more than 41 years. Part-Jewish, he is married to Linda, who takes the Christian message around many schools in the Yorkshire town of Doncaster. Charles has four children and eight grandchildren. Charles can be reached by phone on +44 (0) 1302 832987, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .Charles Gardner is also author of Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com
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