Joel of Jerusalem Dec/Jan 1989/1990
It is getting near the time of year when Jews over the world celebrate Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, an exciting time, especially for the children. Of course, there is very little said in Israel about Christmas, which is why I was so surprised about a conversation I had a few days ago with an older man I have known for years. He came up to me on the street and said, “Congratulations! Have a happy birthday.” I replied, “You know today is not my birthday. That was in October, but I don’t remember you wishing me a happy birthday then. What took you so long?”
He responded, “Oh, I know it is not your birthday. I was referring to the birthday of your God which you celebrate in these days.” This man is an orthodox Jew who works in an office, so I asked, “Do you know in which year He was born?” and he replied, “No, how can you possibly know that?” I answered, “Thou should know. When you are at work in your office, you write the number of years since His birth every time you write the date. It is now 1989 years since Jesus was born.” “I never thought about that,” he said. “Are you sure that is correct?” I replied, “No one can be completely sure; the figure may be off by a few years. But I can tell you with certainty that Jesus came, that He was the Messiah, and that He died to take away our sins.” This statement upset him, and he asked, “Who told you that story?” “No one told me,” I replied, “I read it in the Bible.” He had a good laugh at that.
I try to be prepared to take advantage of every opportunity to witness for the Lord, and I always carry a small Bible with me for such occasions. I took it out of my pocket and said, “Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this One whom you are so against.” I opened to Isaiah 9:6 and read, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” He acknowledged that this passage speaks of the Messiah, but he was very vague in his explanation, saying, “That is one of the only passages like it in the Jewish Bible, and it certainly does not teach that Jesus is the Messiah.”
I told him, “Isaiah 9:6 is not the only passage in the Jewish Bible which speaks about the Messiah; Isaiah 7:14 also speaks of Him: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
I then asked, “Why do you think so many people come to Israel at this time of the year? It is to celebrate the Messiah’s birth in the place where He was born, Bethlehem, which is only a stone’s throw from where we are standing.” He asked, “What will you pull out of your sleeve to prove that foolish statement?” I turned in my Bible to Micah 5:2 and read, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” I then showed him these words in black and white in the Bible and asked, “Are you satisfied that I did not pull that out of my sleeve but that it is written in our Holy Scriptures? And, if you would like, I can show you many other facts about the Lord Jesus Christ in the Jewish Bible. I did not write this book; it was written by Jewish prophets who were led by the Spirit of God.”
Getting back to the subject of Christmas, I told him, “No one is obligated to celebrate Christmas day, the official observance of the birth of Jesus. Instead, we should celebrate His birth every day in our hearts. The important thing is to become His child by placing your faith and trust in Him and worshipping Him in the way He has set forth in His Word. Then He will open your eyes and show you who He truly is and what He has done for us. You will no longer say that I pulled anything out of my sleeve because you will know the truth.”
People are very inquisitive, especially in Israel, and as this man and I were speaking a crowd gathered around us, and now some of these people joined in the conversation. We were discussing faith, and everyone thought he was wiser than the next person. As we say, no two prophets think the same, and so there were many misunderstandings and disagreements as I spoke with them, but I thank the Lord that He gave me His power to withstand their attacks and combat the false teachings they were quoting to try to disprove the truth I was relating about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, in answer to my silent prayer, these people listened politely as I explained how I had come to believe in the Lord Jesus and put my faith and trust in Him, and they no longer accused me of pulling things out of my sleeve. They were beginning to see that I was not simply relating stories but that I was giving them true and living facts from the Bible, the Word of God. I believe some of them understood for the first time why Christians come to Bethlehem at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I told them that the date is not important and that we should make every day a celebration of our Lord’s birth and subsequent death to save us from our sins. I said, “If we truly know Him as our Savior and Lord, we can be happy in Him every day of our lives.”
At the end of our conversation, some of these people asked if I come to their area often, and I told them I come there from time to time and would be happy to speak with them again whenever they asked. Please pray with me that some of them will ponder the things I shared and will open their hearts to the Savior, our Messiah.
And now, for all my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, I extend warm wishes for a blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones.