I was speaking with my friends Tommy and Chris about the challenge of reviving the dialogue between Christians and Jews—all Your people, Adonai, though each claims favoritism in Your sight. Tommy emphasized his ongoing efforts to enter into midrash—the quest for deeper understanding of Your spiritual/historical narrative—with rabbis and Christian pastors, only to be rebuked by both groups. The Jewish people still resent how they have been treated throughout history by Christians, while we followers of Jesus, whether intentionally or by ignorance, have claimed false rights under a banner of Replacement Theology. Many in the church today suggest the Jews are non-players in the end times story, which is unfolding. After all, Your first chosen people reject Jesus as Messiah, how could they possibly still be acceptable in Your sight?
Father in heaven, it frustrates me to no end that we, as Christians, have become so dogmatic. In fact, there appears to be more to the story than meets the casual study we have put into Your text. Also, the Hebrew spiritual culture has drawn a spiteful line in the sand, claiming authority that does not appear (anywhere that I can find) to have been granted them in Your Word.
At this time of year especially, Your history presents an opportunity. I look at two celebrations: The Festival of Lights, Hanukkah; and that of the entry of Hope into the world in the birth of Your Son, Jesus, whom we Christians claim as Messiah. Immediately, Lord, alarm bells might be going off in the hearts and minds of those from both camps who may be reading these words. Each will wonder at the audacity to suggest any connection between these two events. So I pray for Your midrash, not ours, to enter.
As I understand, Hanukkah focuses on the efforts of the priest Matthias and his supporters during the Greek/Syrian occupation of Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem resisted and ultimately won a great victory establishing their right to worship You. During this revolt, the temple mount had been desecrated, and the priests barricaded themselves in the temple in protest. Part of the rituals performed in the temple included keeping an eternal flame—Your light—burning at all times using consecrated oil. During the eight-day temple blockade, only one vessel of oil—good for one day’s illumination—remained. The priests prayed and fasted during their occupation, and You answered by keeping the flame lit for the eight-day duration—demonstrating to the people and to their aggressors that Your presence and commitment to honor Your covenant with Israel.
To me, the celebration of Christmas centers on the birth of a child, Jesus of Nazareth, during the reign of Herod the Great. Prior to the birth, the child’s mother, named Mary, was visited by the Angel Gabriel and told she would conceive a child through Your Spirit, who would fulfill the Messianic prophesies—an extraordinarily human component—offering great hope for mankind, even speaking of a star, guiding kings and dignitaries from foreign lands to offer tribute and honor to the child who one day would be proclaimed Savior and King.
So how does it start—the dialogue and quest for unity, the willingness to find the deeper meaning You always have meant for all of us to possess? How do we join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the hunger to understand Your desire? What (or who) can change our hearts and compel us to take first steps together onto common ground? Only Your Spirit, of course, has the ability to move us in the same direction. Are we ready to hear…to shema?
I’m certainly not the first to connect the dots regarding these two events, El Shaddai. Others have noted the reference to light and Your shekinah glory, Your tangible presence, being involved in Hanukkah, as well as Christmas. You, the God of the universe doing something no one would expect, reaching out with a plan to save people who don’t deserve saving from physical and spiritual desolation.
Being first or last to recognize the power of Your love is not enough. It’s what we do now with Your love received. HaShem, prayer appears to be where understanding and common ground always begin. What would happen if Jews and Christians actually prayed together for enlightenment regarding one another’s traditions and beliefs? What could happen if we found commonality in Your words and Your blessing for all of us? What might each of us learn, and how might we be inspired?
I have no idea because, frankly, I’m just a voice crying in the wilderness. I don’t hear many others asking these questions or wanting the answers.
You, Master, in Your wisdom created light so we could see to become righteous. That righteousness, in Your eyes, requires us to walk with our eyes open, not only to make sure we’re headed the right direction in seeking You, but I suspect also to avoid bumping into all the others You are inviting to Your table. As I heard my friends discussing the dilemma of dialogue between Old and New Testament, a new word popped into my head: brighteousness, the sight of those who walk, regardless of their past, toward a completed understanding of Your kingdom to come.
So Elohim, I pray for a beginning where two or more gathered to grow to become a multitude of worshipers, all as one, reaching out, all seeking Your love,all finding in Your ancient Scripture and new revelation, tearing down the walls of separation and denominations, inviting Jews and Gentiles, reconciliation and restoration.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Brighteousness to all His children,
Zevah ha-shelamim (Join me in sacrifice)!