I am going to skip the Parashah teaching today because , it being Christmas Day, I feel there is a more important message the Lord would have me deliver.
Isaiah was a Prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and tried to help the people realize the hypocrisy of their worship. He lived during the reign of 4 kings of Judah and within 100 years or so of his ministry, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was destroyed.
Isaiah was telling the people that their worship was useless because they were only paying lip service to God. The above-referenced passage says it all:
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
This message was about how sacrifice had become corrupted and polluted into a meaningless rote activity that had no real love or worship of God attached to it.
Sounds exactly like what Christmas is today, doesn’t it?
Look at what Christmas is today: there is nothing “godly” about it anymore, except the occasional bumper sticker that says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Even that has become passe and meaningless to most- it’s something akin to the beauty pageant answer, “What I would like most is to have world peace.”
Most of us know that Christmas is not a Holy Day, nor is it a biblically commanded festival to God; it is a celebratory event created by Constantine in the Third Century (or thereabouts) to help rebrand the pagan celebration of the Solstice to a more “Christian” event.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be a wonderful thing. The music of Christmas is some of the most beautiful and heartfelt devotion to God I have heard from any religion, and the spirit of goodwill that comes on people during this season is unique, and refreshing. There is a magic to Christmas.
Unfortunately, even that is more from social conditioning than a desire to be closer to God, and how many of us really feel the impact of what Christmas means? Heck, if we really thought about what Christmas is supposed to stand for, celebration and thankfulness for the birth of the Messiah, we should all feel sad and dejected that someone was born into this world to suffer for us, to accept the blame and physical abuse that our sins deserved, and that this miraculous birth, this proof of prophecy, this wonderful and merciful living gift of salvation would have to die a horribly painful and lingering death because of what we have done. That’s really what Christmas is about: thankfulness for the Messiah coming into the world, but tempered with the sadness of knowing what this tender, innocent baby would have to endure. Christmas should make me feel remorse and repentance that this baby had to live the life He lived because of what I have done.
Personally, I don’t think Christmas s such a happy time when you think about what will happen to Yeshua. Yes, I am thankful for His birth, and I am disgusted with myself for causing His death. It’s true: I killed Yeshua. In fact, you killed Yeshua. Each and every one of us killed Yeshua because if there had been but one sinner in all the world, Yeshua would have done what He did for the sake of that one person. His parables about finding the one lost sheep, the woman who found the missing coin, the statement that there is no greater love than that one will give his life for a friend (note that He didn’t say for many, or for friends, but for a friend- even saving one life is worth dying for); all the teachings Yeshua gave us, all of which are directly from the Torah, teach us that it is what we do and what we feel that add up to who we truly are.
I hope that you all have a merry and joyful Christmas- the birth of the Messiah is truly a wonderful event, the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation for the world, and the proof that biblical prophecy is valid and trustworthy. The fact that it is not a biblical Holy Day, that Yeshua was probably born during Sukkot, that Constantine created it as a theo-political event, and that it has become totally corrupted in modern society is something we can get past. If we worship God from our hearts, if we ignore the retail sales events, the presents to each other and all the schmaltz, and instead concentrate on thanking God for His Son, and thanking His Son for all He suffered for us, then…just maybe then…Christmas can be the joyful and penitent celebration it should be.
Yeshua said that we should give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God. Thankfulness and worship from the heart belongs to God, sacrifice belongs to God, honor and glory belong to God. Give each other niceties, sure, but first give to God that which He is entitled to. Celebrate Christmas with heartfelt thankfulness to God and conscious recognition of how far short we come to measuring up to what God expects of us.
If you really want to show God that you are thankful for the birth of the Messiah, than go visit the sick, help the needy, dress the naked, feed the hungry. Instead of spending thousands of dollars at Kohl’s and Walmart and Macy’s, spend a few hundred at the soup kitchens and food pantries, give your time to bring food to the hungry, give to charities you know are doing good for people.
Today Christmas is all about what I get from you; let’s make Christmas all about what I can give to those who are in need.
That would be a Christmas present to God and Yeshua that I just know they would love to receive. Remember that Yeshua told us in Mattitayu 25:40:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Why we don’t start a new tradition of giving Christmas presents to God instead of each other?