Yuletide is upon us. Dark evergreen trees are bejeweled with winking lights. Manger scenes and crèches (where still legal) remind us of Jesus, Joseph and Mary – as well as of the pot of overflowing presents at the end of the Christmas rainbow.
As we deck the halls with boughs of holly and peppermint sticks, let’s take a brief moment to remember the missing link at Noël – the Jewishness of the Baby, the Jewishness of the Christmas message, and the Hebrew prophets’ vision. The Babe of Bethlehem is getting ready to return, this time as the roaring Lion of Judah, bringing in His Jewish kingdom to a peace-starved world.
A Jewish theater, a Jewish play, a Jewish set
As the Christmas story opens, the Messiah is about to be born. The actors are ready and the stage is set. And all the extras, all the main actors and all the stagehands (with the exception of Herod and the three magi) are Jews.
This ‘movie’ is being filmed, is taking place, in Israel. The opening scene is on the Temple Mount, where Z’charya (Zechariah in English) is “chosen by lot to enter the Temple of YHVH and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering” (Luke 1:9-11).
Approximately one year later, Shim’on (Simeon in English) “came in the Spirit into the Temple” (Luke 2:27), where he pronounced a beracha (a blessing) over the Baby Yeshua, saying, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples – a light of revelation to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
This Shim’on then spoke a prophetic word over Miriam (Mary in English), “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
Chana (Anna in English – the Jewish prophetess from the tribe of Asher; Luke 2:36) was a familiar sight on the Temple Mount in those days. She “never left the Temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:37-38).
So far this story feels pretty Jewish.
Angels we have heard on high
No Jewish Christmas story is complete without angels – lots of angels! And in the Nativity narrative, angels play an essential role in heralding the Good News (gōdspel in Anglo-Saxon Old English, the ancient root of the modern word ‘gospel’).
The angel Gavriel (Gabriel in English, meaning ‘God is my mighty hero’) beams down to Zechariah inside the Holy Temple, the Bet Hamikdash, and informs him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (Luke 1:19). His was a message which went straight to the heart of the Jewish people and fleshed out a prophetic word about Yohanan Hamatbil (John the Baptist in English) – based on the Hebrew prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 3:1-2; 4:5-6). “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to YHVH their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children” (Luke 1:16-17).
A short time later the angel Gavriel appeared to Miriam with a bold prophetic declaration about how her supernatural Baby would fulfill centuries-old Jewish promises. “ Now in the sixth month the angel Gavriel was sent from God to a village in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Yoseph, of the dynasty of David. And the virgin’s name was Miriam. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! YHVH is with you.’ But she was very perplexed at the statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and YHVH God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end’” (Luke 1:26-33).
- The coming of Yeshua leads to the establishment (in the midst of the Jewish people) of a Jewish and Davidic kingdom which lasts forever, centered in Jerusalem and encompassing the world. This message lies at the core of the Christmas story
Rescuing Jews from their enemies
Messiah Yeshua’s coming has some very Jewish goals in mind which are often ignored when the Christmas story is recounted with a Gentile accent.
Miriam’s prophetic song to Elizabeth spotlights Yeshua as the One who gives help to His Jewish people: “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His covenant faithfulness, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1: 54-55).
Zechariah prophesies under the powerful unction of the Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit) that Messiah will break the power of the enemies of Israel: “Blessed be YHVH the God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant – as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old – salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father; to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days” (Luke 1:68-75).
- One of the chief purposes for Yeshua’s coming in the Christmas story is to crush all powers and terrorist groups who seek to murder the Jewish people and occupy their sovereign homeland. This is a central part of the Yuletide message.
The King of the Jews is coming to reign over the Jewish people
Whereas the theme of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’ is usually a popular Christmas message, Herod the Edomite king saw things quite differently – he saw Yeshua’s birth as a direct and personal threat. In his mind the unshakeable link between the King of the Jews and the kingdom of the Jewish people was a dangerous menace to be prevented at all costs.
“Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “And you, Beit Lechem in the Land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel” (Matthew 2:2-6).
- When the majority of the nations of the world see Jewish sovereignty, centrality and restoration as a threat to be actively opposed, the ghost of Herod lingers on
How should we then pray?
- At this Christmas season, pray for a revelation to many of the Jewish focus of this holiday
- Pray that the God of Jacob would bring to naught all plans crafted against the Jewish people
- Pray for an outpouring of revelation and salvation upon the lost sheep of the House of Israel
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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