OK, I'm just going to say it. I love Christmas. I don't have a problem, as a Jew, proclaiming that. I admit I have a Christmas tree, I love singing Christmas carols, and if you come to my house in December, you will hear Handel's "Messiah" playing over and over again.
Why do I, a nice Jewish girl, find Christmas time especially joyous? It dates back to when I first sang a Christmas carol in 1980. I was a sophomore at the University of Hartford, and I'd gone to the Constitution Plaza for the annual event of the lighting of the Christmas lights there. I found myself joining in a chorus of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I didn't realize that those words were from Scripture. Yet the words I sang that night touched me so greatly that tears came to my eyes. A seed had been planted in my heart that evening.
Two years later that seed flourished when I heard the gospel from Tuvya Zaretsky, a Jews for Jesus missionary who came to my college to share his own journey of faith. It wasn't long before I discovered that the words to "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," spoke of a real freedom that I could experience through Jesus. For decades, as a missionary with Jews for Jesus, I've sought opportunities to see others set free through the Messiah.
I got to witness that miracle in the heart of Phyllis, a Jewish woman who called our office last December. Phyllis had been searching for truth for years, looking into many religions, finding hope in none. Desperate for answers, she went to a Christian bookstore. When they realized she was Jewish, they give her our local phone number and suggested that we might help.
I returned Phyllis's call, and we met the very next day. She was absorbing everything we discussed in the Bible. She made it clear that she wanted hope, as she was so tired of her life of sin and addiction. That Sunday I was speaking at a local church on behalf of Jews for Jesus; my topic was Jesus as the True Light of the World, from John 8:12 and 9:15. Phyllis agreed to come.
After the message, I was speaking to people at my resource table in the lobby when the evangelism pastor of the church came to ask me back into the sanctuary. Phyllis was ready to surrender her heart to Jesus! What a joy it was to partner, first with the people from the bookstore, and then with the evangelism pastor of this church as we saw Phyllis receive her Messiah.
I have continued to meet with Phyllis over the past year, but it has not been an easy road for her. At times, we can see progress in her spiritual growth, but there are also times when old patterns seem to take her back into temporary captivity and she feels condemned, despite assurances of God's grace and forgiveness.
Please pray for Phyllis, as she continues to learn to trust that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me [her] free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:2). As she celebrates her first year as a believer this month, may she, along with any other believers who might be having difficulty resting in God's promises, be able to sing along with real faith:
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.