An excerpt from “Then I Met Messiah”
The following excerpts come from two story booklets. If you can’t wait to see how a story ends, please do not read these two pages! If you enjoy tasty appetizers and are willing to send away for one or both stories, read on!
The winter I was sixteen, my high school chorus had a major role in our school’s Christmas program. In grade school, I had always felt drawn to Christmas carols, but my parents would never allow me to participate in Christmas programs. Now, having taken the music class, I had to sing in the concert or fail the entire semester. I concocted a half truth about my reason for being at school that evening, smuggled my costume out of the house and went off to the Christmas program. Dressed in long skirts and head scarves to approximate biblical garb, we moved across the stage in a kind of slow dance, singing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” Though we had rehearsed those words many times, suddenly I found myself pondering their meaning. Was there something true about Jesus being for us Jews?
The following year, I graduated from high school and found a secretarial job at a downtown law office. I continued to live at home and saw Moishe as often as possible— usually every night and weekends unless he was at work. One evening he didn’t show up. We had no phone and it was too late to walk to his house and disturb his family, so I lay awake and worried most of the night. The next day Moishe came by and apologized. He explained that he had met a young Gentile fellow named Orville at the streetcar stop after work. They had conversed until the wee hours of the morning, much too late for Moishe to stop by and see me. I didn’t ask, and he never said what he and Orville had discussed so long into the night.
At eighteen, Moishe and I were married. We had a traditional ceremony at an Orthodox synagogue in West Denver. Early in our marriage, in 1950, the Korean War broke out. Expecting that Moishe would be drafted, we decided to start a family. If Moishe had to go to Korea, the child would be company for me. To our happy surprise, however, my pregnancy earned Moishe a draft deferment.
I was content and happy. I felt a real sense of freedom to be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. With the pressure of having to be religious gone, for the first time in years, I admitted to myself that I really did believe in God. For the first time since I was a small child, I prayed in my own words. I asked God’s forgiveness for having said He didn’t exist, and I thanked Him for His many blessings. I also prayed for the well-being of our unborn child.
Shortly after our daughter Lyn’s birth, Moishe bought me a phonograph and some records. The albums contained orchestral arrangements of semiclassical works we both enjoyed and also some songs by Mario Lanzo, a very popular tenor at that time. Among those vocals was an album of Christmas carols. Home with a newborn much of the time, I spent many hours listening to these records.
One day about a week before Christmas, I put on the Christmas album. Suddenly the words of “Little Town of Bethlehem” struck me as they never had before. I wondered. What did it mean, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”? Did the hopes refer to the messianic hope? But who would fear the coming of our long-awaited Messiah, and why? The Gentiles said that Jesus was the Messiah. Did we Jews feel threatened by their beliefs? Were we afraid to think about Jesus because it might be true? Was Jesus the Everlasting Light the song mentioned? I listened to another song, “We Three Kings,” and thought about the miraculous star they said led the wise men to the newborn Christ child. I had grown up hearing those carols in school. I had even secretly enjoyed singing them except for the awkward parts that called Him Lord. Now I was considering those songs in a new way and wondering if their message might be true. I felt I had to ask God about that.…
The title tells you the story has a happy ending, but if you want the whole story (a “must” for those interested in the history of Jews for Jesus), please see the enclosed insert.