Joel of Jerusalem Dec/Jan 1983/1984
A TIME OF CELEBRATIONS!
I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5
In the same month, December, we celebrate two holidays which deal with light. One holiday, Hanukkah, is Jewish, and the other, Christmas, is a Christian holiday. They are both joyous holidays. The Jewish people here in Israel especially enjoy Hanukkah, for it gives an opportunity to be free from suffering, if only for a few days. They are celebrating the miracle which the Lord performed by providing oil to light the Temple for purification after it had been desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes.
This holiday originated in Israel, while most of the other holidays originated out of the land, i.e. Passover in Egypt, Pentecost in the heart of the Sinai, etc. Hanukkah is called the holiday of lights, and it is also called the holiday of salvation. Because of this, and because it is celebrated in the same month as Christmas, those of us who know the Savior can truly say that we are celebrating two holidays of light, two holidays of salvation.
Christmas also originated in the land of Israel, because from this land came the Savior. I thank God that He loved us so much that He sent the Savior so that we need no longer be slaves to sin — we can now have freedom through our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross on our behalf. He provided the way for us to go from slavery to freedom, and who can have this freedom? Only those who receive Him. I thank the Lord that my family and I have all received Him and are saved from the bondage of sin and can freely walk in His light. We are proud that He is our Savior, and we praise Him and thank Him for ali He has done for us.
Why should we not, therefore, celebrate the great day of Christmas, when we remember the day on which He was born to die for us? At this time, my family and I like to sing the great songs of this season, such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” which contains these words: “Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heav’n above; Glory to God, all glory in the highest.” Of course, people hear us sing these words and they think if they say to me, “You are a Christian, I will be ashamed. Never! It makes me very happy to be associated with my blessed Lord.
My wife and I were in one of the big stores in Jerusalem shopping for the holidays, and I met many people who know me. Some are good friends, even though they know I believe in the Lord Jesus. Many more, however, hate me because I believe in Him, and they think that if they tell other people of my belief, it will make me run away. Again, I say never! Such treatment only makes me stronger in the Lord.
As I was in the midst of many shoppers on that day, I suddenly heard a strong voice call out to me in the Polish language, “Joel, happy Christmas, God is born.” I was not dishonored by this, as everyone had hoped I would be. Instead, those who wanted to disgrace me opened for me a big gate — they gave me the opportunity to tell them that unto us Is born a Savior, and His name is Immanuel, God with us.
Many people had come to buy things for the approaching holiday, but they found this preview to be more interesting than their shopping.
As you know, people are always curious to know what is happening when they see a crowd forming, and this is what happened on that occasion. Now I had an even greater chance to show them what most had never seen before, the truth. First, I said to them, “It is not as this man said to me in Polish, ‘God is born.’ God always was. He is now, and He will be forever and ever.” “If this is so,”’ someone asked, “then why do you celebrate Christmas as the day on which your God was born?” I explained, “God always existed, but He knew that man, His own creation, was without hope and was trapped in slavery and bondage?” “What do you mean by slavery and bondage?” they asked. I replied, “Sadly, this is the thing you do not know about, and when the day comes for you to meet your God, it will then be too late. Therefore, I want to help you to prepare for that day.”
Then someone asked, “But what about the birth of God? I do not understand.” I explained, “The Messiah was born, but not as you think and have been told through the years. He was born to suffer and die for our sins on the cross. Those who believe in Him die with Him and are also risen with Him, and because of Him we need never die but can live forever.”
“Oh, that’s a Christian story,” they said. I then asked, “Do you know anything about the Bible?” “Do you want to teach us about it?” they inquired. “No, I replied. “I only want to ask you if the Prophet Ezekiel was also a Christian.””Of course not!” they answered. “He was a good Jew.” “If that is so,” I told them, “then you do not understand what is written in Ezekiel 18:22-32, and again in chapter 33, verses 7 to 10, because in these passages it is written how we can have eternal life and never die. And what about Isaiah? Was he a Christian?” “Certainty not!” they replied. Again I challenged them to read Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-7 and the entire 53rd chapter. “Then you will know the truth,” I told them, “and then I am sure you will celebrate with me the great day of His coming to earth. You will also know that this is a gift from the Lord God to us — not because we are so good or because we deserve it, but because of His mercy and His grace toward us. He gave His only begotten Son to be crucified for our sins, thereby opening the way of salvation for us through His suffering, as it is written in Isaiah 53:12, ‘…he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.’ And now, what do you think? Was Isaiah a Christian? Was Micah a Christian? How about Jeremiah, Zechariah and Daniel? How many more facts do you want to hear?”
By this time, a great crowd had gathered around us in the shop. As I said before, people are always curious and they always like to see a performance, especially if they don’t have to pay to see it. Well, on this occasion I gave them a gala performance, a premier performance! Many people had come to buy things for the approaching holiday, but they found this premier to be more interesting than their shopping. Those who wanted to cast me down and cause everyone to laugh at me were themselves ashamed of what they had done, because they could see that I was standing sure and strong in my faith, and all those who had gathered around were looking at me with a special love. Of course, I was not trying to prove my own strength. Rather, I thank the Lord that He has given me His Holy Spirit who enables me to stand before so many people who have never heard the truth about Him and who are always fighting against those of us who believe in Him. They don’t realize that they are actually fighting against themselves. The people of Israel do believe in the Bible, but I am sorry to say that there are so many of them who cannot think on their own. They rely on the rabbis and other teachers to interpret the Scriptures for them and to tell them of the traditions handed down through the centuries.
On that day, there in one of the biggest shops in Jerusalem, they had the opportunity to hear the truth for the first time, and I am sure that many of them were considering for themselves all that I had said and read to them from the Scriptures. Perhaps now they will understand about the birth of the Messiah and the truth that He came to suffer and die so that we could be happy in Him and in the salvation which His death has provided for ail who will receive Him.