Why can’t we have a Christmas tree? All of my friends have one! Why do we have to be different?” Every year the Christmas dilemma plagues Jewish families who live in countries that are oriented to Christian culture. Throughout the year Jewish people all over the world struggle with the question of their Jewish identity, but during the Hanukkah-Christmas season the struggle is intensified.
The media blitz that barrages innocent consumers from Halloween until Christmas Day zeroes in on jolly old St. Nick and his elves, wreathes, trees and tinsel—all of them (or at least most of them) enjoyable, but none of them “Jewish.” What’s a Jewish person to do?
This time of year usually generates several rabbinical editorials and exhortations in the Jewish newspapers that deal with the problem. They remind the Jewish community of its heritage and the importance of being different, and they emphasize that Christmas—any and all of it—is an observance only for the “Christians,” meaning Gentiles.
As a Jewish believer in Jesus, I take exception to the accuracy of that statement. Because I believe in Yeshua as my Messiah and Savior, I too rejoice at His birth. I thrill with excitement as I recall the story of His mother (whose Hebrew name is Miriam) giving birth, and of the wise men coming to worship the Holy One of Israel, the King Immanuel, and presenting Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I feel awed to think that the Alpha and Omega ran, played, learned and laughed, much like my own little boys. I feel humbled as I recall that the beautiful baby who lay in that manger grew up to be the spotless Lamb of God and was led to the slaughter on my behalf. I enjoy worshiping our King Messiah with fellow members of the body of Christ through carols like “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.”
As a Jewish believer and follower of Yeshua, Israel’s Messiah, I celebrate the birth of Christ; yet I am troubled by certain customs and traditions that have been added to the celebration of my Savior’s birth. Many have made gift-giving more important than God, the Gift Giver. Tinsel and trees take precedence over repentance and atonement. The arrival of Santa seems more important than the arrival of the One destined to be God’s offering for sin.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not trying to be Ebenezer Scroogestein. I just happen to believe that “there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved” except the name of Jesus. I don’t see much reason to celebrate the birth of the Savior unless we carry the celebration to its natural end, which is a reminder of His death and resurrection, and then take the celebration a step further as we apply that act of redemption to our lives by trusting Him as Savior and Lord.
At Christmas time we must not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that the world has suddenly developed a tremendous love for God. No, thinking about Yeshua for just one day out of the year is not love for God. Loving God demands nothing less than the allegiance of one’s entire life.
I feel that we believers should not teach our children about Santa Claus, for he does not exist. We should not emphasize gifts, trees and tinsel more than God’s greatest gift—His Son. As we give gifts to those we love, we should remember that the One who loves us gave us His greatest gift. I don’t know if December 25 is actually the day Christ was born, but I suppose it’s as good a day as any to celebrate the Incarnation. I have reconciled the Christmas dilemma that plagues my Jewish people, for I have found the Reconciler promised by God.
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, but there is the Messiah. He has come, and His name is Yeshua!