I'll let you in on a little secret:
As a Jewish kid growing up in the suburbs I thought Christmas was the most beautiful time of year. I never felt offended by manger scenes in the town square, although I couldn't understand why those ceramic Jews were standing around a stable full of animals.
And why was that Jewish Baby in the barn with the animals?
Jewish people aren't crazy about farm animals. They were forbidden to own land in the Middle Ages, so they got into the mercantile trades: buying, selling, lending. Then they made their kids become doctors or lawyers or accountants. Did you ever see an accountant milking a cow?
My mother was always telling me that animals were dirty and you kept them away from the baby. We had dogs, but we shampooed them.
So I found those manger scenes difficult to understand. Two Jewish people named Miryam and Yossef, in a stable with their Baby, because there was no room at the inn? It didn't make sense. When there's no vacancy at the Holiday Inn, you try to find something cheap at a motel. As long as they have clean towels. I mean, this was hard for a suburban Jewish kid to understand.
But I was never offended by it.
If Christians were so obviously delighted with this ceramic Jewish family, what could be the harm in that? I wasn't going to be the one to tell them that there were too many animals in the house. Maybe they liked animals. And if they wanted to imagine that Jewish people felt comfortable with cattle, what was the harm in it?
I don't recall a single Jew ever saying to me, "Aren't you offended by that manger scene?" Nobody ever said that. The only comment I remember hearing, from a Jewish person to a gentile, was when Bernie Jacobs said, "Business is good. I can't complain." What Jewish person would complain about a holiday during which gentiles line up in front of department stores, waiting to spend money? Think about it! (To tell you the truth, I've always thought that Santa Claus was really a Jewish toy manufacturer with a terrific idea. Santa Bloomberg?)
All that anti-Christmas stuff was created by atheists. I liked Christmas. Bernie Jacobs owned the local music store, and I remember buying records like "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Little Drummer Boy". Didn't Bing Crosby sing that?
I loved that music!"Silent Night" was one of my favorite songs. I didn't have a clue what it was about, but something about it was deeply spiritual, and it spoke to me.
What was all this fuss about a baby named Jesus, born the King of the Jews? And what kind of a name was "Jesus"? Jewish kids had names like Bernie and Solly and Irv. It was a mystery to me. But what a beautiful mystery. All those sparkling, colored lights, reflecting off the snow. Why didn't Jewish people make a fuss like that over any of our holidays? A fifty-foot menorah with sparklers for Hanukkah, a sukkah the size of Mammoth Mart for "Tabernacles", or a giant, fuchsia chicken or something. I thought it was wonderful that Christians displayed their religious faith in such a handsome fashion, and with so much chutzpah. I still do.
Jews are not demonstrative. Centuries of persecution, topped off by the Ho1ocaust, can dampen a community's enthusiasm to advertise its presence with a fifty-foot chicken in the public square. But now Christians are being persecuted by secular powers who want to outlaw any public display of Christmas. I think that's a crime. (It's unconstitutional, too.)
Christmas is offensive to no one but a hater of God.
I remember standing in the snow, snowflakes falling in my hair and tickling my eyelashes, gazing for long minutes into one of those manger displays, at the Infant in the manger, the three kings with their gifts, and those Jewish people with the animals. And I remember pondering that scene and its implications.
Who was this Child?
And why was he so special to those Jewish people?
What was going on in that barn, anyway?
In the silence of those winter evenings, that rustic tableau touched me in a special way I can't describe. Hashem was speaking to me through those ceramic actors, as they stood frozen in time, frozen in the most miraculous moment in human history, the moment the
Torahand the Nevi'im(the Law and the Prophets) had promised, the moment when God came to earth in human flesh. The Ben M'vorach, the Son of the Blessed One, Whose Name(Yeshua) means "Salvation" in the Hebrew tongue. "For unto us a Child is born.Born to
Unto us a Son is given. . . ."
haAlmah(the virgin) in Bet lechem(or Bethlehem, which means "House of bread"), killed before the destruction of the Temple (Daniel 9:26), as the substitute for our sins (Isaiah 53:8), bringing in the Brit Chadashah(the New Testament, or Renewed Covenant) as promised in Jeremiah 31:31ff, the promise that saved my soul.
And so I say, with all the love in my heart, with gratitude to every Christian who so patiently endured my cynicism, who so consistently prayed for my soul, and to every Christian reading these words:
Have a very merry Christmas,
and a happy new year.
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Daniel 9:26 "And after the 62 sevens, Messiah will be cut off, and have nothing. And the people of the coming ruler will destroy the City and the Sanctuary. His end will be like a flood. War will continue until the end. Desolations have been decreed. "
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