Plumbing the Depths of Christmas

Exif JPEGDo we really know the depth of the meaning of Christmas? For many, it’s the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, but that birth was just the beginning of a massive plan prepared by God the Father before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1;19-20). Yes, God had a plan from the beginning to deliver man from sin and all of sin’s cousins. Then down through the centuries, from the day of Adam and Eve, God continually spoke to His prophets, telling them that a Messiah was coming, and to advise all of God’s people to look for Him.

And, finally, Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” So Christmas is really just the beginning of the culmination of the master plan of God begun before He even created us.

Actually, 337 times in the Old Testament, He foretold of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, and here is just a short sample of what He told His covenant people to look for:

1 – He who is to come will be a prophet like Moses. Deuteronomy 18: 15,18

2 – He will be the Son of God. Psalm 2:7

3 – He will be of the tribe of Judah (A Jew) Genesis 49:10

4 – He will be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14

5 – He will be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2

6 – He will be rejected, despised and forsaken. Isaiah 53:3

7 – He would be silent. Isaiah 53:7

8 – He would be betrayed. Psalm 41:9

9 – He would be tried and condemned. Isaiah 53:8

10 – He would be crucified with his hands and feet pierced. Psalm 22:16,18

11 – He will be our sacrifice. Isaiah 53:5-6

12 – He will be raised from the dead. Psalm 16:10

Why did He speak all of these words and over two hundred more to His people? Because He cared for them. He did not create man to be lost and separated from Him. Here is a glaring example of the goodness and love of God.

He wanted to redeem fallen man. And for Jesus to be the Word made flesh, that Word had to be spoken by the prophets into this world. As God spoke through these prophets, He was giving people hope so that they would have something wonderful to look forward to. What was to come was no more animal sacrifices, no more living in doubt and fear.

The Messiah Jesus would be the once and for all sacrifice for the whole world.

Christmas is more important than all of the outside glimmer we are used to. Christmas is the culmination of all that God said about the Savior to come. We celebrate with glimmer and lights – nothing wrong with that. But we also celebrate Christmas because we recognize that Jesus actually “came down” for us.

He “came down” so that one day we might “go up”.

He “came down” to a lowly stable so we can one day have a mansion.

Simple shepherds welcomed Him to earth, so that one day angels will welcome us into His presence.

He “came down” to put the devil completely out of business.

God has not changed. He wants us to reap and enjoy the benefit of Christmas, and to rejoice in our Savior who came to deliver us from sin, sickness, and everything the devil tries to throw at us.

Because of Christmas, we are overcomers.  KAVOD! GLORY!

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Advent Attitudes

ADVENT WREATH - SHARON BAPTIST“For the coming of the Son of man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:37-42

The four week period before Christmas in the Christian church calendar is known as Advent. The purpose is to underscore and celebrate the Advent-or soon arrival- of the Christ child at Bethlehem. Denominational churches throughout the world, particularly liturgical churches, will recognize this season with special services and programs.

This is certainly a fitting recognition of a great historical event. But our purpose here is to center your attention upon an Advent period not restricted to four specific weeks out of the year, but unrestricted and constant in these last days. It is the Advent of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to claim His Bride; and then, after a short season, the return to earth with that Bride to establish His great Millennial Kingdom.

What a day that will be! This time He will not arrive as a baby; He will not be despised, accused, beaten, spit upon and finally brutally murdered. He will be in full regalia as a conqueror, His royal insignia shouting, “Behold, the King of kings and Lord of Lords –before whom every knee will bow!” We are now in the Advent season of His soon return. Do you believe that? If we accept the reality of that statement, it is incumbent upon us to develop and maintain a spiritual attitude that points in that direction. Remember, the scriptures tell us that He is coming for those who are expecting Him. That translates to believing that He is coming, and will appear at any moment!

To help us develop that high level of expectancy and preparation, we are listing thirteen “Advent Attitudes” with applicable scripture references. Read them, study them, absorb them, until they become an integral part of your walk of faith.

1 – Believe His coming: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 This is not a fad or a theory, but a reality and vital part of our faith. This is not a simple statement, it is a promise. All of the promises of God are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus!

2 – Pray for His coming: Matthew 6:10, Revelation 22:20 Intercession for His coming motivates us to a deeper commitment to holiness and service.

3 – Love His coming: 2Timothy 4:8 “…to all those who have loved and longed for His coming.” Are you caught up in the madness of this world, or does the Advent of His coming cause you to fall deeper in love with Him?

4 – Preach His coming: 2 Timothy 4:2,1 The soon return of our Lord for His Bride is a vital part of the message we must declare.

5 – Watch for His coming: 1Thessalonians 5:6 Part of our faith walk includes being awake, sober and full of expectancy.

6- Expect His coming: Romans 6:19,23 Here the Apostle Paul urges us to eagerly anticipate His soon coming, and to welcome the first indication of it.

7-: Mark 13:35; Titus 2:13 The word “looking” as used in this text carries the double meaning of separation and expectation. Re: Hebrews 12:2

8- Wait for His coming: 1Thessalonians 3:5 The margin here reads “…the patience of Christ.” Patiently our Lord awaits the Father’s signal to come after His Bride. We are to manifest that same patience here on earth.

9 – Do not despise His coming: 2Peter 3:3,4 This may sound like a strange statement, but scoffers abound today. Many who professed belief in His coming are cynically asking, “Where is He?” Some do not believe in the Rapture and reject any approach to prophecy. That is “despising” His coming.

10 – Hasten His coming: 2Peter 3:12 Literally translated this reads “expecting and hastening”.

11 – Live in the power of His coming: 2Peter 1:16 The confidence in the soon return of our Lord is not just a spiritual luxury, but a source of real power for daily living and life.

12 – Live His coming: Philippians 3:20 It is not sufficient for us to grasp this truth – it must grasp us!

13 – Be unashamed at His coming: 1John 2:28 We saints must never be ashamed of this truth, or be a shame to it. On that day, many Christians will meet Christ with a saved soul, but so ashamed of their non-works of “wood, hay, and stubble” that they will feel like shrinking away in shame.  We would rather hear, “WELL DONE, MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT. ENTER IN TO YOUR REWARD!”

Happy Advent!
A Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Advent Attitudes

ADVENT WREATH - SHARON BAPTIST“For the coming of the Son of man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:37-42

The four week period before Christmas in the Christian church calendar is known as Advent. The purpose is to underscore and celebrate the Advent-or soon arrival- of the Christ child at Bethlehem. Denominational churches throughout the world, particularly liturgical churches, will recognize this season with special services and programs.

This is certainly a fitting recognition of a great historical event. But our purpose here is to center your attention upon an Advent period not restricted to four specific weeks out of the year, but unrestricted and constant in these last days. It is the Advent of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to claim His Bride; and then, after a short season, the return to earth with that Bride to establish His great Millennial Kingdom.

What a day that will be! This time He will not arrive as a baby; He will not be despised, accused, beaten, spit upon and finally brutally murdered. He will be in full regalia as a conqueror, His royal insignia shouting, “Behold, the King of kings and Lord of Lords –before whom every knee will bow!” We are now in the Advent season of His soon return. Do you believe that? If we accept the reality of that statement, it is incumbent upon us to develop and maintain a spiritual attitude that points in that direction. Remember, the scriptures tell us that He is coming for those who are expecting Him. That translates to believing that He is coming, and will appear at any moment!

To help us develop that high level of expectancy and preparation, we are listing thirteen “Advent Attitudes” with applicable scripture references. Read them, study them, absorb them, until they become an integral part of your walk of faith.

1 – Believe His coming: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 This is not a fad or a theory, but a reality and vital part of our faith. This is not a simple statement, it is a promise. All of the promises of God are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus!

2 – Pray for His coming: Matthew 6:10, Revelation 22:20 Intercession for His coming motivates us to a deeper commitment to holiness and service.

3 – Love His coming: 2Timothy 4:8 “…to all those who have loved and longed for His coming.” Are you caught up in the madness of this world, or does the Advent of His coming cause you to fall deeper in love with Him?

4 – Preach His coming: 2 Timothy 4:2,1 The soon return of our Lord for His Bride is a vital part of the message we must declare.

5 – Watch for His coming: 1Thessalonians 5:6 Part of our faith walk includes being awake, sober and full of expectancy.

6- Expect His coming: Romans 6:19,23 Here the Apostle Paul urges us to eagerly anticipate His soon coming, and to welcome the first indication of it.

7-: Mark 13:35; Titus 2:13 The word “looking” as used in this text carries the double meaning of separation and expectation. Re: Hebrews 12:2

8- Wait for His coming: 1Thessalonians 3:5 The margin here reads “…the patience of Christ.” Patiently our Lord awaits the Father’s signal to come after His Bride. We are to manifest that same patience here on earth.

9 – Do not despise His coming: 2Peter 3:3,4 This may sound like a strange statement, but scoffers abound today. Many who professed belief in His coming are cynically asking, “Where is He?” Some do not believe in the Rapture and reject any approach to prophecy. That is “despising” His coming.

10 – Hasten His coming: 2Peter 3:12 Literally translated this reads “expecting and hastening”.

11 – Live in the power of His coming: 2Peter 1:16 The confidence in the soon return of our Lord is not just a spiritual luxury, but a source of real power for daily living and life.

12 – Live His coming: Philippians 3:20 It is not sufficient for us to grasp this truth – it must grasp us!

13 – Be unashamed at His coming: 1John 2:28 We saints must never be ashamed of this truth, or be a shame to it. On that day, many Christians will meet Christ with a saved soul, but so ashamed of their non-works of “wood, hay, and stubble” that they will feel like shrinking away in shame.  We would rather hear, “WELL DONE, MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT. ENTER IN TO YOUR REWARD!”

Happy Advent!
A Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Without Hanukkah, There Would Be No Christmas

DAD'S CROSS OF DAVID - PALE GREEN

I do not hesitate to say, or apologize for saying, that our Christian heritage is in Judaism. If you dig down into our foundations deeply enough, you discover the Jew. That is not only a spiritual truth, but also a historical fact. Jesus was a Jew—100%, full-blooded, full-fledged Hebrew. This was in God’s plan. That is why He called Abraham and, through him and his wife Sarah, established the Jewish nation. Through this Jewish bloodline would come the promised Messiah. No other nation or ethnic people on earth at that time were worthy of that honor. It had to be a brand new people living and worshiping under the law of Jehovah God.

From that point, everything should have run smoothly, but it didn’t. Israel had her problems with sin and idolatry; plus she had her national enemies who also were responsible in part for her sins. You see, Satan did not retire when God cast him out of Heaven. He knew something big lay up ahead, all of which would be to the glory of God. So he never missed an opportunity to try sidetracking every move he thought was God’s. And, without question, his special target throughout the Old Testament era was the Jewish people — the children of Israel. He didn’t want to merely harass them or make them suffer. He wanted desperately to annihilate them—wipe them off the face of the earth. He is still trying to do that today.

And that brings us to a special time in history when Satan almost succeeded. It was in the period between the Testaments, specifically 168 BC. Something happened that culminated into a celebration known as Hanukkah, an 8-day long holiday celebrated by the Jews to this day. And because of Hanukkah we have Christmas. And if there had never been a Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas!

In the period I referred to between the Testaments, the children of Israel were under the iron rule of the Syrian king named Antiochus. Not only did Antiochus subject the Jews to a life of suffering, but he was also openly determined to destroy the very foundation and unique identity of Judaism. He prevented the Jews from ever using the Temple, but he didn’t stop there. He forced them to abandon every phase of their religion. He banned Sabbath, circumcisions, all worship of Jehovah God, and all traditions that dated back to Moses. He destroyed all of the writings of the scribes that he could locate. He erected idols all over the Temple, including in the Holy of Holies. Then as the ultimate act of desecration of God’s temple, he sacrificed a pig on the altar of God.

The Jews were totally defeated and demoralized. This was one unique time in Jewish history when the enemy came within a fraction of destroying all traces of a recognizable Jewish culture. And any chance for a promised Messiah to be born into Judaism would have vanished.

But in 168 BC, at the height of the reign of Antiochus, there was an aged Jewish priest named Mattathias who one day struck down and killed one of Antiochus’ commissioners and an apostate Jew, who were in the process of offering up heathen sacrifices in the temple. Then he leveled the altar and escaped with his five sons into the wilderness. He organized a guerrilla band to oppose Antiochus. Two of his sons were killed in the process, and Mattathias died shortly thereafter.

But the eldest son, Judas, took over. Judas and his guerrilla band defeated every military unit Antiochus sent against them. During this time Judas won the name “Macabbee,” which means “the hammerer.” Within three years, Judas Maccabee and his band of Jewish guerrillas miraculously recaptured the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

They promptly set about destroying every semblance of heathen presence. They thoroughly cleansed the temple and rededicated it to Jehovah God and to the worship of Him alone.

The temple was rededicated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of “Kislev,” which corresponds exactly to our month of December. The name Hanukkah means “dedication.” The celebration is also referred to as “The Feast of Dedication,” and the “Festival of Lights.” The common Hebrew phrase connected with Hanukkah is “Nes Gadoy Haya Sham,” which means: “A great miracle happened here.” Truly, it was a great miracle: Judaism was saved from oblivion.

In actual fact, there are two miracles that link Hanukkah and Christmas, and understanding them will raise your joyful appreciation of both. First, there was the preservation of the Jewish people. Had Antiochus been successful, the Jews and Judaism would have gone the route of all the other nations that are today nothing more than archeological history. (e.g. Philistines, Amalakites, etc.) There would not have been a chosen nation for Christ to be born into. So whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s saving power, remember Hanukkah and His loving power for the Maccabees: all odds against them, yet they miraculously prevailed. He is the same God, who today delivers His people, Jew and Gentile.

The second miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of lights. Antiochus and his thugs had extinguished the Seven-branch Menorah that was to burn in the temple continuously. The victorious Jews searched for oil to rekindle this sacred flame. They found only enough for one day, and it would take eight days to get more. In their excitement to rekindle the flame, they didn’t wait. They lit it with only one day’s supply of oil. Miraculously it burned continually for eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight full days, and why a nine branch candelabra is used in the celebration. The “Shamash,” or servant candle is lit first; then it lights all the other candles one at a time each night for the eight nights. On the eighth night the full candelabra is brilliantly aglow.

John 10 tells us that Jesus went up to the temple at the Feast of Dedication. Isn’t it appropriate that He would choose that moment to declare, “I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”? (John 8:12.)

Like the “Shamash,” the Servant Candle (Jesus) lights our way and sends His Holy Spirit to ignite us, to fire us up, so we can shine His light into a dark world.

So the miracle of preservation made Christmas possible, and the miracle of light reminds us of the prophet’s voice: “He shall be a light unto the Gentiles … and His salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).

Finally, there is the common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas, and it is that of “God with us – Immanuel.” There is a traditional Hanukkah hymn that reads like this: “Rock of ages, let our song praise thy saving power; thou amidst the raging foe, were our sheltering tower; furious they assailed us; by thy arm you availed us; and thy word broke their sword when our own strength failed us!”

God has promised to be with us, His people, in every endeavor of our lives, and this promise was forever sealed in the Name the prophets chose to call Messiah. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14).

Jesus was born to die and then rise up victoriously. Born to light our way and make us lights. Born to be worshiped and adored by Jews and Gentiles alike. He is the Hope of Hanukkah and the Christ of Christmas.

These two holidays share their significance in the person of Y’shua, Jesus, our Rock of Ages.

(Hanukkah begins December 9, 2012)

Without Hanukkah There Would Be No Christmas

I do not hesitate to say, or apologize for saying, that our Christian heritage is in Judaism. If you dig down into our foundations deeply enough, you discover the Jew. That is not only a spiritual truth, but also a historical fact. Jesus was a Jew—100%, full-blooded, full-fledged Hebrew. This was in God’s plan. That is why He called Abraham and, through him and his wife Sarah, established the Jewish nation. Through this Jewish bloodline would come the promised Messiah. No other nation or ethnic people on earth at that time were worthy of that honor. It had to be a brand new people living and worshiping under the law of Jehovah God.

From that point, everything should have run smoothly, but it didn’t. Israel had her problems with sin and idolatry; plus she had her national enemies who also were responsible in part for her sins. You see, Satan did not retire when God cast him out of Heaven. He knew something big lay up ahead, all of which would be to the glory of God. So he never missed an opportunity to try sidetracking every move he thought was God’s. And, without question, his special target throughout the Old Testament era was the Jewish people — the children of Israel. He didn’t want to merely harass them or make them suffer. He wanted desperately to annihilate them—wipe them off the face of the earth. He is still trying to do that today.

And that brings us to a special time in history when Satan almost succeeded. It was in the period between the Testaments, specifically 168 BC. Something happened that culminated into a celebration known as Hanukkah, an 8-day long holiday celebrated by the Jews to this day. And because of Hanukkah we have Christmas. And if there had never been a Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas!

In the period I referred to between the Testaments, the children of Israel were under the iron rule of the Syrian king named Antiochus. Not only did Antiochus subject the Jews to a life of suffering, but he was also openly determined to destroy the very foundation and unique identity of Judaism. He prevented the Jews from ever using the Temple, but he didn’t stop there. He forced them to abandon every phase of their religion. He banned Sabbath, circumcisions, all worship of Jehovah God, and all traditions that dated back to Moses. He destroyed all of the writings of the scribes that he could locate. He erected idols all over the Temple, including in the Holy of Holies. Then as the ultimate act of desecration of God’s temple, he sacrificed a pig on the altar of God.

The Jews were totally defeated and demoralized. This was one unique time in Jewish history when the enemy came within a fraction of destroying all traces of a recognizable Jewish culture. And any chance for a promised Messiah to be born into Judaism would have vanished.

But in 168 BC, at the height of the reign of Antiochus, there was an aged Jewish priest named Mattathias who one day struck down and killed one of Antiochus’ commissioners and an apostate Jew, who were in the process of offering up heathen sacrifices in the temple. Then he leveled the altar and escaped with his five sons into the wilderness. He organized a guerrilla band to oppose Antiochus. Two of his sons were killed in the process, and Mattathias died shortly thereafter.

But the eldest son, Judas, took over. Judas and his guerrilla band defeated every military unit Antiochus sent against them. During this time Judas won the name “Macabbee,” which means “the hammerer.” Within three years, Judas Maccabee and his band of Jewish guerrillas miraculously recaptured the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

They promptly set about destroying every semblance of heathen presence. They thoroughly cleansed the temple and rededicated it to Jehovah God and to the worship of Him alone.

The temple was rededicated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of “Kislev,” which corresponds exactly to our month of December. The name Hanukkah means “dedication.” The celebration is also referred to as “The Feast of Dedication,” and the “Festival of Lights.” The common Hebrew phrase connected with Hanukkah is “Nes Gadoy Haya Sham,” which means: “A great miracle happened here.” Truly, it was a great miracle: Judaism was saved from oblivion.

In actual fact, there are two miracles that link Hanukkah and Christmas, and understanding them will raise your joyful appreciation of both. First, there was the preservation of the Jewish people. Had Antiochus been successful, the Jews and Judaism would have gone the route of all the other nations that are today nothing more than archeological history. (e.g. Philistines, Amalakites, etc.) There would not have been a chosen nation for Christ to be born into. So whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s saving power, remember Hanukkah and His loving power for the Maccabees: all odds against them, yet they miraculously prevailed. He is the same God, who today delivers His people, Jew and Gentile.

The second miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of lights. Antiochus and his thugs had extinguished the Seven-branch Menorah that was to burn in the temple continuously. The victorious Jews searched for oil to rekindle this sacred flame. They found only enough for one day, and it would take eight days to get more. In their excitement to rekindle the flame, they didn’t wait. They lit it with only one day’s supply of oil. Miraculously it burned continually for eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight full days, and why a nine branch candelabra is used in the celebration. The “Shamash,” or servant candle is lit first; then it lights all the other candles one at a time each night for the eight nights. On the eighth night the full candelabra is brilliantly aglow.

John 10 tells us that Jesus went up to the temple at the Feast of Dedication. Isn’t it appropriate that He would choose that moment to declare, “I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”? (John 8:12.)

Like the “Shamash,” the Servant Candle (Jesus) lights our way and sends His Holy Spirit to ignite us, to fire us up, so we can shine His light into a dark world.

So the miracle of preservation made Christmas possible, and the miracle of light reminds us of the prophet’s voice: “He shall be a light unto the Gentiles … and His salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).

Finally, there is the common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas, and it is that of “God with us – Immanuel.” There is a traditional Hanukkah hymn that reads like this: “Rock of ages, let our song praise thy saving power; thou amidst the raging foe, were our sheltering tower; furious they assailed us; by thy arm you availed us; and thy word broke their sword when our own strength failed us!”

God has promised to be with us, His people, in every endeavor of our lives, and this promise was forever sealed in the Name the prophets chose to call Messiah. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).

Jesus was born to die and then rise up victoriously. Born to light our way and make us lights. Born to be worshiped and adored by Jews and Gentiles alike. He is the Hope of Hanukkah and the Christ of Christmas.

These two holidays share their significance in the person of Y’shua, Jesus, our Rock of Ages.

(My special thanks to Chesdovi and to Christian Covenant Fellowship for use of the unique photos.)

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