Dearest sisters and brothers,
Shalom from Jerusalem where we are being blessed by a sunny day in the midst of floods of blessed rain. Perhaps we shall have an end to this long season of drought…the rains have been plentiful, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is filling at a good pace, and we are thankful.
I approach this letter each December with a sense of joy and trepidation. We all have our views, opinions and convictions based on both our experiences, and they way that we have been led by The Lord along our individual and collective ‘journey’. In Jewish Israel there basically IS no Christmas holiday. Over the years I have noticed that some people whom I have written to find this hard to grasp, but if the birth of Messiah was denied, if it is believed that Messiah has not yet come…then there is no birthday celebration. Christmas is a day of work, as usual…no gift giving, no trees, no decorations, no songs, no gatherings and no rejoicing in the knowledge of salvation. BUT! (I have grown to LOVE that word when it is used to mean ‘BUT [the intervention of] GOD’!) We Jews are incredibly curious people by nature, and Israelis are FASCINATED by Christmas! ‘What do these ‘gentiles’ (because most Jews do NOT understand the difference between simply gentile – or non Jew – and Christians) DO? And WHY?’ Now, enter in to the scenario LOTS of variables. Here in the land you have Arab Christians (usually Catholic, Russia or Greek Orthodox, Coptic, or one of the other similar groups). You have a fairly large group of gentile Christians who have ministries here and are ‘expatriates’, maintaining their national culture and identity. And then you have the Jewish believers, and those who have joined themselves to us. Among the Jewish believers – of which I am one – there are what Chuck referred to at yesterday morning’s 6:30am ifi prayer meeting, the ‘humbug’ believers and the ‘non-humbug’ believers. Most ‘humbugers’ have come from the west where they took a strong stand against the materialism, idolatry and roots of the origin of the modern celebration. This is VERY legitimate. Then there are those who have incorporated natural Jewish curiosity with the unique opportunity to share the gospel openly on this day. There are also some of us who share our homes with spouses who have particular cultural needs. When I met HIM, as I have told you before, I was amazed, actually overcome, by the message sung in the Christmas Carrolls! I had never HEARD them before, and there it was…the message that He had been born, being proclaimed openly in commercial areas, on street corners and in homes of people who didn’t know HIM! I couldn’t get over it! In the meantime, my own husband didn’t yet know Him so I busied myself with much prayer and preparation to find a way to turn my husbands head toward the wonder of His birth. I seemed to know right away that this date was only a symbolic date of His birth and that the trappings were so not of HIS kingdom, but The Lord seemed to show me how to make a ‘display’ of HIM in my heart and actions, and to truly celebrate HIS birth. In those early years I was blessed to be able to see many come to HIM on that day and to sow many seeds.
After we made aliyah – immigrated here – my husband would sink into a dark hole as Christmas approached and he wished for an ‘American Christmas’…although I’m so aware that he wished really for the joy of childhood! Yearly I have sought The Lord for a creative way to bring HIS comfort to my husband through The Word made flesh. But THIS YEAR…all of our children and Grandchildren are GONE! ‘Oh Lord! What do I do?’ Once again He has been so good to us and has opened a number of doors that I know His blessings are behind. First of all, my boss informed me that I still had 4 days ‘vacation’ left and needed to use them before the 1st of Jan. Up until now I have ALWAYS used my vacation days to help with needs of some sort. I went online and found a cabin (‘tsimmer’) down in the desert (Sde Boker – the kibbutz that Ben Gurion is from – you can see it here http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g2009122-d2558019-Boker_Valley_Vineyards_Farm-Sde_Boker_Southern_District.html ) just north of the beautiful crater, Mitzpe Ramon, and booked it for 2 nights (the 26th and 27th) by faith! Believe it or not, we have been together for more then 40 years and we have NEVER done ANYTHING like this alone! We never even went on a honeymoon!! I took the step and told my husband and we are now both very excited. I would so be blessed knowing that perhaps some of you prayed for my husband to return his heart to The Lord, and also that we would be blessed with rest and refreshing that we do seem to need desperately. And after I took that initial step of faith? The provision appeared the following day! He is just so good!
Meanwhile, a young couple with a two year old son from our fellowship invited us to breakfast at their house on the 25th and my husband is very happy about that. This is the young woman whom I recently took to lunch to encourage. In the past, on Christmas Eve, we used to attend a service in the old city at Christ Church. This is the main Protestant Church that has some serious outreach on the night of the 24th and we have seen many amazing things there as much prayer goes into the preparation of the very evangelistic service. The Church is packed with Jewish ‘site seers’ along with the believers who come to worship and to share. The Gospel messages are all available in Hebrew and as people listen we have seen them visibly shaken and stay for prayer and counseling. It is truly a unique and fruitful outreach. In all of this, there is only one purpose: that The Lord Yeshua h’Meshiach, The Lord Jesus Christ would be recognized, glorified and given His place as Lord and King in each of our hearts. As to HOW we do this, I think Paul addressed it perfectly when he said:
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to The Lord, and he who does not observe the day, to The Lord he does not observe it.” Rom. 14:5,6
Below is a short, interesting interview from the perspective of an ‘expatriate’ Christian in a large ministry here. I thought that you might enjoy it.
Frontpage Jerusalem Radio
Word From Zion, December 17, 2012
ICEJ Executive Director, Dr. Juergen Buehler, shares on his experience of celebrating Christmas in the Holy Land, while outlining some of the wonderful promises fulfilled in Christ’s birth.
However you are led to spend the 24th and 25th, I pray that it will be blessed and full of worship and the joy of The Lord. I pray that HE will be glorified and find HIS rest in each of your hearts and lives. I count you each a gift in my life. I am thankful for you. Many of you I have known since the days that I first met HIM and others are new friends, many of whom I have never met. HE has brought us together and knit us together into HIS body, and I find that I LOVE YOU IN HIM! “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”! I bless you sisters and brothers out of Zion. May Yeshua h’Meshiach, The Lord Jesus Christ alone be glorified! Lovingly, your sis