December 26, 2016

The Birth of Moshiach

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”
                                   —Micah 5:2

Of the countless remarkable things about the birth of Christ, the prophecy in the tiny book of Micah is one of the most compelling.

The prophet Micah recorded fully 700 years before Christ’s birth that the Messiah (“Moshiach” in Hebrew) would be born in…Bethlehem.

Perhaps it’s a lame comparison, but let’s say they were in Oklahoma then. One would think the Messiah would be born in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or some other city. Instead, he would be born in…Bugtussle.

Being born in Bethlehem, rather than in, say, Jerusalem, was a signal that the Creator did things His way, and not our way.

And that has made all the difference.

I want here to briefly describe what I’ve seen in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during my visits there over the years. The main thing is, the more you drive south from Jerusalem, the more you see how things really were 2,000 years ago. The scene has little changed. People still tend sheep and the ancient hills are still there. The sleepy hamlet of Bethlehem is still there. It’s ironic now that it is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but that’s a topic for another time.

In the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one enters through a low door, then stands in a large church, where traces of ancient cultures are still seen. Being ushered downstairs to the places where tradition tells us Jesus was born is a bit disconcerting. The small grotto under the church is supposedly the “stable” and “manger” where the Lord entered this world. The heavily Catholic flavor of the place—with its ornate furnishings—leaves one a bit disoriented, if one expects a scene like the rough wooden stables set out each year at Christmas in so many homes, then the real place is disappointing!

But one can easily imagine the Lord coming to us here. Beyond the turmoil of the centuries, the place is still soaked in peace. It was here the shepherds saw the Star. It was here the wise men came from the east. And it is where, as the great prophet Isaiah tells us, the animals knew their Master.

We learn who Christ is through Scripture. That is where we begin to know Him. These historical occurrences are recorded and we can have confidence they happened.

I want to say too that one of the greatest evidences He came to us then, and is coming back to us again, is that He lives within believers. This cannot be explained through evolutionary philosophy or self-help teachings, or the New Age.

Christmas—the holidays—is often a tough time for many. I know many are desperate financially. I know a man who is well into retirement age, but he and his wife are forced to work for the duration. Without going into details, he has made his considerable financial concerns public, and it is painful to think of them at this time of year.

Others have tremendous physical challenges. Or they are grandparents raising their grandchildren. Young couples overwhelmed with the busyness of life.

Tonight, as I write this, I am particularly burdened for an old friend.

I’ve had my own challenges this year, with big transitions for more than two years.

But I am happy.

I empathize with those of you struggling, for whatever reason. I genuinely mean that. I feel a true kinship with my readers here at “Israel Watch.” Many of you communicate with me, and we have shared issues in our lives.

So please let me ask you at Christmas to do something. Go to a place where you can be quiet. A room, a park, a walking path, maybe even a coffee shop. Maybe you can only find quiet in your mind.

But think of the fact that 2,000 years ago, God became man and dwelled among us. He came to share our struggles and better yet, provide a way out of misery that sin causes. He became the sacrifice for our sins and here I don’t mean that in an esoteric way. Rather I mean, He came for you in a tangible way.

Then settle your mind and heart on Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

At Christmas, and you will probably read this Christmas night at the earliest, please try and find peace in your heart by thinking on the fact that Christ came, died, rose, and is coming again. I love thinking about all of it at Christmastime.

I hope and pray for you that your Christmas season has been relaxing and fun. If it has not, though, it’s not too late to enjoy it and make it even memorable, as the year peace came to your heart.

Sleep in heavenly peace.