Now comes Christmas where we celebrate:
THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM.
Loving, unique, divine this babe was, one of a kind.
Our Jesus born in Bethlehem was a:
He was born in Israel, divinely begotten in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Bethlehem of Judea, the place of birth, so traditionally Jewish gave the world so many great Jews, like David and the place that marks the birth of Jesus, the Church of the Nativity remains even today Israeli protected no matter the agreements with the Palestinians. To visit that church, go deep into the ground is to feel so very much the very manger that was there 2000 years ago when Christ the Jew was born.
We my fellow Christians worship a Jew. He came as a special divine witness to the Jews. His ministry and miracles were done with and among the Jews. Only later was the divine covenant for salvation and inclusion extended to the gentiles. We the gentiles were grafted on to the Jewish tree of life, a branch dependent upon the root and the trunk of the tree of life. We believe that this babe was GOD – MAN and the man part of Jesus born in Bethlehem was JEWISH. WE MY FELLOW CHRISTIANS WORSHIP A JEW. Never forget that.
The growing Jesus of Nazareth was steeped in Jewish tradition. His father’s family trade was carpenter, builder and the Jewish Jesus learned that trade himself. He understood his heritage and participated in his culture. He observed Jewish holidays and holy days. Gospel passages are thrilling, inspiring when Jesus talks about going UP TO JERUSALEM to celebrate Passover. He knew, respected and profited personally from the Passover experience.
The Babe of Bethlehem having become man even taught in that special, holy temple in Jerusalem. He witnessed to the people, presented to them a new covenant and they were amazed at his learning, his brilliance and his elocution. They wondered among themselves how this young man, the son of the carpenter from Nazareth could have become so learned and so wise. Many never really understood his true identity, his divine nature but they were filled with respect and awe for Him, for what he did and for what he taught.
Many accused this SON OF GOD of attempting to overthrow the law, the Jewish Law. In fact, the scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted him killed for these blasphemies. But Jesus made it clear that he came not to negate or overturn the law but to:
FULFILL THE LAW
To give it new meaning, to take it to the level of MESSIAH. To bring the new dimension of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness in a new way, a human way divinely inspired. The law, the Jewish Law was made whole, completed IN HIM.
The Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus of Nazareth came as the SON OF MAN. That title he used for himself over and again. But he was more appropriately the SON OF GOD, that special divine ambassador who takes away the sins of the world. He made it clear that the law, the traditions, even the sabbath itself were made for man and that mankind was not made for them. He did miraculous things, for the rich and the poor, for the lame and the halt, for the well and the strong. He healed over and again. He challenged with a message never heard before. He made people think, and think uniquely. He created a new sense of inadequacy, a new consciousness of emotional and spiritual need and he brought to them the message of salvation and forgiveness. The people were ready to crown him king but:
HE WAS READY TO DIE!
HE was one of as many as seven or eight siblings including four brothers, Simon, Judas, James and Joseph and several sisters unnamed by scripture. He grew up a member of a large family and early on, perhaps as young as 12, even taught in the Temple, challenging the scribes and exhibiting a knowledge of Jewish Law and traditions which amazed even them. In those days, his Mother Mary never really understood him nor his calling. But her influence in his life was apparent, and at the end, there was wonderful love and loving exchanges between mother and son. This SON OF MAN, of Mary and Joseph, this Son of God was a true SON OF MAN.
He came not for himself but to do the will of his FATHER. He was sent, a special ambassador, witness, and example. No man had ever seen God, of course, but to see HIM, and know HIM was to know the father. We were he told us made in the Father’s likeness and that, though our human minds could never begin to understand, we would have access through prayer and meditation through this Son of Man to:
GOD THE FATHER.
Small wonder that the religious powers that behated him and his message and wished him killed. Although on the one hand FULFILLING, this man and his message were deeply polarizing, shocking, revolutionary in so many ways. The Babe of Bethlehem challenged, called out the sin and hypocrisy of that day and age, especially the hypocrisy and identified so much of religion as kept, controlled and interpreted by men he dared to call vipers, whited sepulchers and of course hypocrites. This carpenter of Nazareth, even as he might tear down the spiritual house of those who built upon the sand, built his own upon THE ROCK, a spiritual edifice for that time and:
So many of his teachings, especially those in parables, came from a carpenter mentality. The house, the home were used over and again. Foundations were important. Splinters and blocks of wood became the stuff of parables unforgettable. But no matter any earthly home, he made it clear that he came to ultimately prepare for all those who loved and believed:
A HEAVENLY HOME
Where, forgiven and trusting, we his disciples would live with HIM forevermore. We who do believe, some 2000 years later, trust that promise and often look longingly for that promised HEAVENLY HOME.
HE readily participated in the FEASTS and fastings of Jewish tradition. He fasted we are told 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. How that is possible is beyond human comprehension. But he joyfully participated in feasts, ate well and drank wine and thoroughly enjoyed the good life of the times. He ate, he feasted with publicans and sinners and how wonderful it would have been had some of the good fun and humor which obviously occurred been included in scripture. He told us that he came so that our JOY might be full, that we would live abundant lives and that all things were lawful even if some were not expedient. Live life to the fullest, because of ME, and enjoy the short time you are here. Never be embarrassed to live life and to the fullest.
He wept. He cried real tears as any man would or should. He felt deeply, perhaps more so than any other man then or since. He knew the hearts of mankind, men and women perhaps because his own heart was so big and all inclusive. And he laughed and he felt joy. He relished in happiness and though he dealt with the needs of people, he shared the good times with them with laughter and joy.
JESUS THE JEW came first as a ministry, a mission and a messenger to THE JEWS. Whether acknowledged as such or not, he came as THE MESSIAH, the ONE promised in scripture and sent of God. He came first to the Jews and then the gentiles. His poignant and pungent exchange between the Samaritan woman indicated his love for all humankind and because of her gentile faith, he met her needs, a clear sign that THE CHRIST OF GLORY came for everyone.
He boldly asserted, this special Jew, that he was in fact:
No one, he even more boldly stated, could come to the father except through him. That of course was then and even perhaps more so today a major stumbling block for people of all other religions and beliefs but it remains today a rock upon which the belief system of all Christians is built. There is none other.
He came to die and die he did, a brutal, cruel, agonizing death on the cross. As man, he never wanted that and in fact, even asked the Father to relieve him of his mission. But then, knowing who he was and why he came, he willingly, even perhaps somewhat gladly ended his life on the cross knowing what that would mean to humankind. That death was salvation and forgiveness perfected. Crucifixion Friday may have been the saddest day in history.
BUT THEN CAME SUNDAY! And from the tomb in which he was buried, HE AROSE, and was seen, and fellowshipped, and ate and that for some 40 days. He ascended as says the Apostles Creed, to the Father and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty waiting for that special timing sure to come. HE WILL RETURN. And all the world, say the scriptures, will acknowledge him, worship him and that will fulfill the angelic promise:
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST
AND ON EARTH
PEACE AND GOODWILL
TO ALL HUMANKIND
THIS SON OF MAN, THIS SON OF GOD was a Jew, steeped in Jewish tradition, understanding, loving and fulfilling the law. The Babe of Bethlehem we celebrate at Christmas was indeed born to us as savior. He was in fact Christ the Lord and HE is our eternal hope now and forevermore.
Remember, my fellow Christians that we who believe worship the SON OF MAN:
We should respect, love, protect and defend all who are Jewish:
The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a Bethlehem manger was JEWISH. Again, remember that so very well when you shout with the angels at Christmastime:
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST
AND ON EARTH
PEACE AND GOODWILL
TO ALL HUMANKIND!