How Jewish Is Christmas?
Many Christians get visceral about attacks against an “Old Fashioned Christmas,” but when I ask them about whether or not Jews, like Stewart and Seinfeld, have something to celebrate besides the Maccabean victory over Antiochus IV in 164 BC, they have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s so much a part of our American culture that “Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews celebrate Hanukkah” that we miss how Jewish the first Christmas story is.
I would expect Dr. Luke, the only Gentile writer in the New Testament, to forget about all the Jewish stuff in Jesus’ birth. Instead, you would think he was writing to a Jewish audience. When Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist and a Jewish priest, is finally able to speak again at his son’s circumcision, he bubbles with enthusiasm about what this means for his Jewish people.
“Blessed be the LORD God of Israel because he has visited and provided redemption for His people. He has raised up a Horn of Salvation for us in the House of David, His child. This is exactly as He spoke from of old through the mouth of His holy prophets, salvation from our enemies and deliverance out of the hand of all who hate us. This salvation demonstrates the loyal mercy of God, the One who has kept His promises to our fathers by remembering His covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham.
The fulfillment of this promise gives us the ability to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days because He delivers us from those who hate us. And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the LORD to prepare His way, to give the knowledge of salvation to His people, even the forgiveness of their sins.
This forgiveness is rooted in the tender mercy of our God. His (the Messiah’s) visit is like the rising of the sun. It shines on all of us living in darkness, that is in the shadow of death. It guides our feet in the way of peace.” - Luke 1:68-79
Jon Stewart gets thousands of laughs in his annual “War on Christmas” comedy routine. I pray that maybe Jon and Jerry, along with many other Jews, might read in Luke’s first century account about the only Messiah who can actually deal with the hate and violence but who also can give us the greatest gift--true divine forgiveness and victory over death. After all, the only human I know in history who actually died and showed up back on earth alive was a Jew named Jesus.
Mary and I are praying for your protection during this time of the celebration of the Jewish and Gentile Messiah’s birthday. We are also praying that maybe even at Starbucks you might sit down with a friend who doesn’t know Jesus and say, “Hey, look at this cup. It’s red. Do you know what this color reminds me of, especially during this season?”
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