Below are some frequently asked questions we hear concerning the Christmas season and the Jewish people; we hope you’ll find our responses helpful.
What does Christmas mean to my Jewish friends?
Some Jewish people might be curious or adventurous. Don’t be surprised if some of your Jewish friends participate in holiday festivities, as long as the festivities do not touch on personal beliefs. In fact, in Israel people are so curious about the holiday that last year we invited Israeli neighbors to the Moishe Rosen Center to bake Christmas cookies and had a great response.*
Likewise, don’t be surprised if some Jewish friends are aloof concerning Christmas. They might:
- be wary of public emphasis on Christ because of past persecutions perpetrated in His name
- find it uncomfortable or disloyal to participate in a non-Jewish holiday
- rather not think about Jesus being the Messiah because they fear it might be true (fortunately, confronting this fear has led many to investigate and accept the gospel)
Don’t assume any of the above, but ask sensitive questions and then be a good listener so Jewish friends know that you are interested in any thoughts they might care to share.
Should I send Christmas cards to my Jewish friends?
Many Jewish people send Christmas cards to Gentile friends and associates, choosing nonreligious motifs for their cards. The best way to reciprocate is not to send a Christmas card, but rather a greeting for Hanukkah. (This year Hanukkah falls before Christmas, but you don’t have to wait to see if you get a card to send one.) Or you can send a card for the New Year.
Should I give Christmas gifts to my Jewish friends?
Few people are offended by a kind gesture from a friend. Skip the babe-in-the-manger wrapping paper, but feel free to offer your gift as a way of expressing joy over what God has done for you. You might even say, “I just wanted to share the joy I feel over God’s Christmas gift to me—the Messiah. But I totally understand if you’d rather consider this a late Hanukkah present.”
Should I invite my children’s Jewish playmates to a Christmas party?
What could it hurt? Jewish people, children in particular, often feel left out at Christmastime. Most would probably welcome an invitation to a Christmas party if it is not centered on singing Christmas carols. While most Jewish people don’t mind singing secular songs like “Jingle Bells,” any unbeliever would feel uncomfortable singing words of worship or adoration of Jesus.
It would be important, in any case, to check with a child’s parents before extending such an invitation. Be sure to tell them what you will be doing and saying. If they would rather not have their child attend, they won’t be in the awkward position of having to say no to their child.
Should I invite my Jewish friends to our church’s special Christmas program?
Again, what could it hurt? At the worst, you will receive a polite refusal. On the other hand, your Jewish friend might be curious to see the inside of a church and find out how Gentiles worship, and the message of the Christmas program might have a positive spiritual impact. And if you are friends with a couple in which there’s a Jewish partner, that partner might be more open to going to church at this time of year in support of his or her significant other.
You could extend a less formal invitation and ask your Jewish friends and neighbors to join your family’s Christmas dinner. (Be sure you ask about any food restrictions and don’t plan on serving ham!) They might welcome the opportunity in the same way that you would welcome an invitation to a Jewish feast.
*While it wasn’t a gospel event, it promoted the atmosphere that is helping more and more Israelis in the neighborhood ask about what we believe.
Adapted from a 1988 newsletter article by Jews for Jesus Founder, Moishe Rosen