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Archive for December, 2010

 

Star Of Bethlehem

 A Grafted In Christmas!

 There was a time when my son sarcastically called it “giftmas” and at the time it seemed appropriate. From Thanksgiving on I heard Christmas music in the stores and could not begin to avoid the boundless choices of gift and decorations offered. Some years the countless TV commercials, newspaper ads, flyers tacked to my front door, and ads filling my mail box exhausted me. I, too, begin to think of Christmas as “giftmas;” s time for buying gifts, delivering gifts, and being scared to death that I might forget a gift. That would be unthinkable and, depending on the person, unforgivable. Christmas almost seemed like a burden and I could not wait for the holidays to fade into the past. Always at the back of my mind I judged all of the businesses and commercialism with desecrating the holy day of Jesus Christ’s birth. When, in fact, it was I that was desecrating the day by letting them steal the joy I had in my heart for the Holy birth.

 The other night David and I watched a video called “The Star of Bethlehem” which described the star that the wise men followed. The positions of the stars and planets on that particular night proved to be very interesting and if you will excuse the pun, enlightening. I recommend it to anyone who would like a scientific explanation of the star the wise men followed. And, as it turns out, the star led them to Bethlehem, on December 25th, about two years after the birth of Christ. It was then that those wise men presented their gifts to the Holy Child. And so, perhaps the term “giftmas” isn’t so far from the truth. However, that being noted, gifts were presented to honor the new born King, Yeshua Hamashiach.

 Because no one knows for sure the exact date Jesus was born, someone chose the celebrations of His birthday to be on December 25th. I am told this is because a pagan holiday coincides with that date and persecuted Christians felt safe having a celebration that day. Christians would not celebrate the pagan belief, but instead celebrated the birth of Christ. And because no one really knows the exact day of His birth and because of the pagan connection, many people I worship with the rest of the year refuse to celebrate Christmas. In my estimation, this is a sad victory for the dark side. I will celebrate Christmas, not as “giftmas,” but in gratitude for the birth of the King of the universe on this lowly planet. How can I not be thankful? The more I celebrate Christ on this day (and every other day) the more light I shine around me. I cannot let darkness win over semantics.

 Perhaps you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, yet condemn the celebration of Christmas. Perhaps you think I need more facts about the subject. And I tell you that I would rather celebrate in ignorance than judge in fact. God knows my heart and I encourage everyone to celebrate Christmas, the day that the Creator of the universe and everything in it humbled Himself to come to this earth in the form of a tiny, helpless baby. It’s His gift of salvation, because if He had never been born He could have never died on a cross to deliver us and to heal us by His stripes. He gave us the gifts of power, joy, love and peace. Celebrate by giving as He gave, as living as He lived, and by loving as He loves.

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Hanukkah!

 

David and Vicki in front of Solid Gold Temple Menorah

Hanukkah – The Festival of Lights. The word means dedication and we can tie the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem to the opportunity to rededicate our lives for another year to our Lord and Savior, Yeshua, Hamashiach, Ben David. Since our own bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit it is only fitting that we should make the connection of celebrating the Light within us.

 When I look at the beautiful Hanukkiya with its nine candles (eight represent a day and one is the servant or lighter), the rich history that Hanukkah symbolizes immediately turns my heart and mind to meditating on the deep significance of the festival. Anyone who hasn‘t read the history of the Festival of Lights will be amazed, once again, at how God uses His chosen people to teach the lessons of life to the world.

 The faith and bravery of the small band of fighters who sided with the Maccabee’s to fight those who defiled their Temple and dishonored their God, overcame battle after battle. God gave them the strength each time to overcome because each man knew in his heart that they had to win. If they had lost, the Jewish people would have been destroyed. Because they were outnumbered and had fewer arms, it was a miracle that they won. They fought with their farm tools, sticks, stones and whatever they could pick up from those they conquered; while their enemies carried swords and rode on the backs of elephants.

Their victory was one of several miracles, but the one we celebrate takes us back to the day the Maccabees restored the Temple. Part of the restoration included the Temple lamp which was a menorah that burned continuously, like an eternal flame. Sadly, there was only enough oil for the seven branched lamp to burn for one day. In faith they lit the menorah anyway, and the lamped burned miraculously for the eight days required to make ritually pure oil for the Temple. After that they had enough oil to keep the light burning.

The celebration is about the victory, about the rededication of the Temple, and the miracle of the lights. We especially remember the miracle of the Light of the World, Yehsua, Hamasiach, at this time.

Tonight we light the first candle of Hanukkah. We do this for several reasons. Once we realized that we were grafted into the Jewish family, it became our responsibility and desire to learn more about the Jewish traditions and what they mean. I discovered that Jews celebrate Hanukkah in several different ways and that Messianic believers celebrate differently as well. However, some things are almost always included.

The traditional feast involves the lighting of the candles each night for eight nights. We light the first candle on the far right; candles are lit from right to left because Hebrew is read from right to left. Each time we light a candle we thank God for His mercy and grace that the Jewish people exist today and remain His chosen people.

In addition to lights there are dreidels involved. Dreidels are interesting because they are used as little tops for the children to spin. Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter on it, noon, gimel, hey and shin. Those letters form an anagram (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham) meaning “a great miracle happened there,” which speaks of the miracle of the lights. The dreidel game resembles gambling, which Rabbis condemn, but in this case it is accepted because of the meaning of the anagram. First everyone gets a supply of whatever they are playing for; it could be seeds, popcorn, nuts, or even pennies. Someone spins the dreidel to see what letter ends up on top. If it is the nun, you do nothing. If it is the gimel, you take the main pile. If it is the hey, you take half the pile. If it is the shim, you give half of your pile. The player who has something when everyone else is broke wins. Or you can play the dreidel as a spinning game, timing each spin to see who can keep their spin longest.

Traditionally children receive gifts for eight days. They get chocolate coins called gelt. There is a lot of cooking going on during Hanukkah. Traditional foods use olive oil to make latkes, served with sour cream, and other dishes. No matter how you choose to celebrate Hanukkah, remember Yeshua, Hamasiach, the Light of the world, who stood among the men at the Temple the night they lit the menorah!

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