In spite of getting a 13-week jump-start on Christmas with this series, my shopping just began this week. Not because of procrastination in the usual sense, there’s just not enough Christmas spirit in me to shop before Thanksgiving no matter how hard I try.
So far, I’ve done all my best shopping online–on Black Friday. (FYI- There is no such thing as Cyber Monday sales. Stick to Black Friday online if you really want to save money.)
But I digress.
This week, I’m spending the bulk of my shopping time making my Christmas list. For a lot of parents and grandparents, this is where things go terribly wrong.
Before we get into that, did you take a minute to watch the above video? If not, go ahead–take a look.
What’s wrong with this picture?
In Kosher Jesus, author Shmuley Boteach writes to both Jews and Christians alike. However, as I mentioned before in What Has Christianity Lost?, his complete dismissal of the New Testament (while understandable) leaves his argument for unity of the faiths a bit one-sided and more than a little disheartening. At least, it does on the Christian side of the family tree.
In our new series Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians, the author David H. Stern, Ph.D is Jewish. He is also a follower of Christ or a Messianic Jew. If your first thought to that statement is, “Doesn’t that make him a Christian?” you might find his book a worthwhile read as we explore this, and many other aspects of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
It’s important to emphasize Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians is intended, as the name implies, primarily for non-Jewish Christians and for Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus). The author begins with three presuppositions:
- Christianity is Jewish
- Antisemitism is un-Christian
- Refusing or neglecting to evangelize Jews is antisemitic
The author further assumes,”Yeshua is indeed Israel’s Messiah, and that the New Testament and the Tanakh (Old Testament) constitute God’s word to humanity.”
“Yeshua’s “Great Commission” to the Church was to make disciples from every nation. But as soon as the early Messianic Jews began reaching out to Gentiles, it was necessary to separate the Gospel from its cultural context, so that its essential message would not be encumbered with cultural baggage unnecessary for salvation.
Learning that the New Covenant did not require Gentiles to become Jews in order to be saved was a traumatic process for the Jewish believers in Yeshua.”
Paul spent much of his ministry bringing Gentile believers into the faith, without compelling them to adopt Jewish culture. Doesn’t it seem odd, or just plain wrong, that now that we Gentile believers/Christians are the majority within the church, that we have insisted that Jewish believers do the very same that Paul preached against–adopting Christian culture and leaving Judaism as a condition of salvation?
No wonder, it doesn’t look like God’s plan to either side.
So what is?
That all of Israel be saved.
My fingernails still carry splashes of color.
The nail polish, once so meticulously applied by six-year-old Pearl, is now worn and chipped. I hope the memory stays as vivid as this awful color. Note to self: Before agreeing to a free manicure always have plenty of nail polish remover on hand.
When I finally do get around to scrubbing the polish off, it will be the last physical reminders of our dress-up tea party and our short time together.
Pearl requested, immediately upon arrival, that we have a tea party. Although she was only three at the time, apparently we had one the last time she came for a visit, which she remembers astonishingly well. So we spent a few hours painting nails, rolling hair and trying on gowns and dresses.
Yes gowns– little girl tea parties are a formal affair, in case you didn’t know.
Without realizing it I created a tradition. Apparently, in my granddaughter’s mind, going to my house is synonymous with going to a tea party. Traditions can crop up without realizing it when you’re dealing with children. The kid that can’t remember to brush his teeth every night will remember that hot chocolate you made three years ago. Moms may hate that, but that really works in grandparents’ favor.
This week I was reminded of a tradition that I started when my children were young, then, somewhere along the way I lost it. It was really just as much for me, as it was for the children.
Every year (at least for several years) I would hunt down the best Children’s Christmas book I could find. It had to have a great story, and even better artwork. Not your usual Santa stuff. I always found something that I enjoyed reading as much as the kids loved listening to. The idea was to collect these treasures over the years. Then, when my children are grown I would have a wonderful collection of Christmas stories to pull out each year and share with the grandchildren.
Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball. All but a few books are left. So this year, I’m starting over.
So, I thought I would share a few of my old favorites.
Remember my oldest son, the one that nailed his Christmas tree to the floor? A few years ago I received a victorious phone call from him the day after Thanksgiving.
He was so proud of himself, he had to call the entire family to brag. He just won the Superbowl. The Superbowl of Christmas shopping, that is — Black Friday.
Mom! I conquered Christmas. We are off to eat breakfast. All of our shopping is done and we saved a ton of money. I’m telling you, I got this Christmas thing down.
That phone call inspired a new tradition that his sisters have perfected over the years.
Here’s how it’s done Robinson style.
Traces of pain were embedded in his voice.
I instantly recognized the man as one of my long-time favorite recording artists, Steven Curtis Chapman. The woman sitting next to him was obviously his wife. Although I’d never seen her before, I knew the look on her face as well as my own. It was the blank stare of a grieving mother.
Then I heard her say to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America,
“I’ve said, you know, somewhat coldly, ‘I don’t care whose lives are touched by this story and whose lives are changed or what good comes of it.’ As the heart of a mom, I want Maria back.”
“And that’s — you know, that’s what I want people to know is I want Maria back.”
There’s just not enough good that can be done, to ease the pain of losing a child.
The Chapmans’ five-year-old daughter had died just a few months before that interview in 2008– the pain was still visibly raw. Little Maria died after being hit by a car in her own driveway. It was a tragic accident to say the least.
People often try to comfort grieving parents by trying to show them some good. Their attempts usually compound the pain rather than relieve it.
In the Chapmans’ case the “lives touched,” by their daughter’s death, are real not just a Hallmark sentiment. The Chapmans expanded their charity to add Maria’s Big House of Hope for special needs orphans. They have carved an immense amount of good out of their sorrow.
However, there are people who commit crimes of destruction and violence in the name of injustice on a daily basis. We’ve all seen them captured on film. What about rioting in the streets over issues as trivial as a lost sporting event? There seems to be an air of justification in too many of those instances.
If circumstances such as these can be justified in the least, what of the liberated prisoners of Auschwitz?
“We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly…the psychological counterpart of the bends.”
They now had a choice on how they would use their new freedom.
Who still shops at Kmart?
This advertisement is a pathetic cry for help. It’s even less effective than an 8 year old “acting out” to get his parents’ attention and then ending up with a time-out in the corner.
Kmart is the commercial version of that kid. Once the darling of the American family, it fell into obscurity after its bout with porn a couple of decades ago.
In the early 1990s, Kmart, through their Walden books stores, was one of the largest retailers of pornography in America. Kmart refused to take porn out of their bookstores. Walden then sued the American Family Association (AFA) for meddling in their backdoor profits. So AFA let the rest of us in on Kmart’s dirty little secret and called for a boycott.
It only took a few months for Kmart to feel the heat. By 1994, while Walmart and Target sales saw healthy gains, Kmart had suffered consistent and continuing profit decline and announced plans to close 110 stores.
This year a new boycott is being threatened after Kmart announced that its stores will remain open from 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday. The uproar is over the company’s apparent lack of concern for its employees’ ability to spend time with their families over the holidays.
Perverting Christmas by showing men tinkling their testicles in public is one thing, but perceived corporate greed is the unforgivable sin of our new Marxist economy.
In blogging Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus I hoped the rabbi’s insights would bring the two faiths a little closer with a deeper understanding of one another. If successful, it would strengthen both Christian and Jewish faiths and in turn strengthen the fabric of American culture.
Whether that happened for his readers or mine, can only be answered within each individual. Only the One that searches the hearts of men, can know the collective good.
For me personally, it opened my eyes to some harsh realities. It inadvertently answered one question I had hidden in my heart for years, “Why do so many Jews hate, or at least mistrust, Christianity and by default Christians?” I get that we part ways at the cross, but why such a deep, unbridgeable divide?
Boteach presented the answer to my question from a historical Jewish perspective. His accounts of the antisemitism instituted in the name of Christianity left me deeply saddened and more aware of the barriers that divide us beyond theology.
In Kosher Jesus Boteach lays much of the blame at feet of unnamed “editors of the New Testament” which stripped Jesus of his Jewishness, and painted him as a traitor to his people. The author declares this misrepresentation is the worst character assassination in history. While Boteach believes Jesus should not be worshiped as the Son of God who died for our sin, but rather as a devout Jew, martyred while attempting to free his people from the cruelty of Roman rule.
I can honestly say, I deeply respect his point of view and appreciate his ability to open the door for discussion of a potentially explosive topic. As a rabbi, what Boteach brought to the table is an understanding of Jesus as a Jewish man.
Where Boteach fell short, however, was his lack of understanding of Christianity beyond the level of Wikipedia.
It’s not surprising that he holds very little, if any, credibility in the New Testament. His depiction of Paul, as being intellectually dishonest at the least and a mystic opportunist with an agenda at best, leaves no common ground for Christians.
In the end, Boteach left too many unanswered questions at least for Christians. That’s why I’m introducing a new series, exploring the Gospels, as they would have known it in the early church, through messianic Jewish eyes.
The window candles are all in place. I love how their warm glow greets the dark, cool autumn air. The sound of cousins giggling is the current music playing throughout the house. The season of giving thanks and celebrating family and friends is in full swing at the Robinsons’.
The first wave of house guests arrived this week. Our daughter, along with three little grand-daughters, is visiting while their daddy is on a hunting trip.
Reminiscing, talk of creating new traditions, and plans for a dress-up tea party filled our first days together. It’s been mildly amusing over the years to watch my adult children’s early attempts at capturing the Christmas spirit those first years out on their own. At first, my oldest son Chris thought Christmas only resided at our house. So he hauled his new bride home to spend the night with us (on the couch) for Christmas. If the spirit of Christmas was in our home that year, it didn’t come within ten feet of that poor girl. That particular tradition didn’t seem to fit his family well–and died quickly.
Not willing to give up, a few years later he decided it was all about the tree.
So a new family tradition was in order, and they made an outing of the whole Christmas tree process. The best part of the afternoon was spent at a local tree farm searching for the perfect tree. They found it, the largest Christmas tree they could imagine.
Hot chocolate and Christmas music set the mood. The children learned to string popcorn while mom and dad decorated the giant tree. Then the unthinkable happened. Their beautiful fully decorated tree crashed to the floor. They all took it in stride… the first time.
The second time it hit the ground, there was little humor left. Once again the family made it whole again, then called it a night.
With everyone tuckered out, tucked in and sound asleep they heard a loud clatter. It was not the joyful sounds of reindeer hoofs, but you guessed it, falling timber and shattering glass.
As world leaders gathered to discuss the future of Israel, speculations and suspicions swirled around American Christians’ motives and commitment to Israel’s right to exist.
From Tablet’s “Why Gay Marriage–Not AIPAC–May Determine Whether Bibi Bombs Iran“:
Bibi’s possible choice of a military option would be premised in part on the assumption that Israel enjoys a strong bedrock of support in the United States—not Jews, but Christian evangelicals. The problem with the assumption that Israel can rely on its Christian supporters—and the majority of Congress that is reliant on their votes—is that some younger evangelicals are now tilting against support for the Jewish state. Oddly, the issue that may decide whether Israel can count on the United States in the future is not President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, but the evangelical schism on the issue of gay marriage.
American evangelical support for Israel is based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, in particular this passage from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The political expression of the mainstream evangelical exegesis of this passage is John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, which is the country’s largest pro-Israel organization—a fact that is hardly surprising, given that, according to the recent Pew study, more evangelicals believe that God gave Israel to the Jews than American Jews do, 82 percent to 40 percent.
Contrary to what many liberals believe, and many conservatives like to pretend, the fundamentalist movement, like Judaism, is not a unitary political or theological force. Evangelicals lack a single guiding leader, as Catholics have in the pope, and as a result schisms in their movement have played a large if often understated role in American history. One such historic schism may be opening up beneath the feet of the pro-Israel community right now.
Evoking Hollywood images of the Scopes trial to illustrate the point, author Lee Smith claims that just as evolution split fundamentalists into sides that fought over the literal interpretation of creation, leaving them them looking foolish and archaic, so too will those that believe in the out-of-touch ideal of marriage as only one man and one woman look foolish.
On my to-do list today: Order new bulbs for the window candles.
Now is the perfect time to start decorating for Christmas. You can start today too. No– I’m not talking about a blow-up snow-globe in your front yard. Please don’t do that–ever.
Decorating for Christmas doesn’t have to be just throwing tinsel and stringing lights. It really can, and should, be about a whole lot more. Decorate with the “spirit” of Christmas– not the theme of Christmas.
What do I mean by the “spirit” of Christmas?
Create an environment full of sights, sounds and aromas that provoke feelings of peace, serenity and even a bit of nostalgia. For example: A fire in the fireplace, with a warm blanket draped over the arm of a nearby chair and a stack of classic novels long forgotten, beckons a weary soul.
By creating an atmosphere, rather than a display, your houseguests, visitors and all that dwell within can find a unique peace away from the hustle and bustle of the busy season rushing past your door.
The season of hospitality officially kicks off next week at the Robinsons’. It’s the best time of the year. Soon we will have a stream of houseguests that take us through to the end of November.
It’s been our tradition for over the last decade to place the candles in the windows. When the children were small, I started to collect antique looking electric candles. It took several years for me to get one in every window ledge of that old farmhouse, but I eventually did.
At that time, its purpose was to create a warm glow in the evening throughout the house as the days grew shorter and the nights grew colder.
Now that the children are grown, it serves as a more traditional symbol of a safe place for weary travelers and family as they make their way home for the holidays.
This week, it’s time to set candles in the windows, ready the fireplace, seek out some new music and fill the house with the sent of cinnamon and cloves. Most importantly, create an environment that says, “Come sit awhile and rest, eat and laugh— the Savior has come.”
What says “peace” in your home during the holidays?
Photo Credit Shutterstock’ Andrew Koturanov
Here is the parody on Obamacare performed by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley at the CMA Awards. Singing to the tune of George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” these two country artists did what country music does best–tell a great story.
This time, they also reminded us we do still live in America, where we can hold our government up to public scrutiny and laughter.
When I entered the hospital room her eyes said she recognized me.
All through our 25-year friendship, Mary taught me about life, faith and how to be a friend. She was suffering from the effects of diabetes. The last heart attack left her heart too weak to keep good circulation in her legs. The doctors were walking a fine line. They needed to amputate the leg before gangrene poisoned her. However, Mary’s heart had to heal enough for her to survive the surgery.
Mary had her share of sorrows. She knew the human face of abandonment, betrayal and crippling pain. I couldn’t look at her in that hospital bed lined with monitors and not feel a deep sense of injustice.
She turned to me and smiled. As her liver failed, so did her ability to speak coherently. Our eyes locked, and I could tell she wanted to say something. She seemed to concentrate hard, as if it was difficult to form the words. “I…love…” she paused as she struggled to get the last word out–so I drew closer. ”Puppies!”
Then she closed her eyes and shook her head no, and giggled at herself.
She spent the rest of the afternoon in and out of reality–smiling, giggling and whispering. She was locked away deep inside herself with no escape. She was a prisoner inside her own body.
Now is the perfect time to get ready for one of our favorite Christmas traditions, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.
It’s never too early to start shopping for just the right sweater. In fact, if you don’t find one by the end of November then forget it. The thrift stores run out early, and face it, the only thing worse than wearing the ugliest sweater you can find is paying full retail price for it.
Although if you want to hold your head up in public wearing a Christmas montage I suggest you design your own.
A few years back this concept was an affront to my sensibilities. Why would anyone want to go to a party and meet new people wearing something tacky?
No one has ever accused me of being a slave to fashion. However, this took some real mental adjusting over a period of years just to actually enjoy it.
The first two years I bought very traditional, and very ugly, sweaters. The first one was made out of some sort of cheap fuzzy red yarn that made me look like Elmo on Sesame Street. The following year was equally as bad. A black, button-down sweater covered in snowmen made of varying sized white buttons and ribbons.
Would you believe that there are people on this planet that actually thought those sweaters were “cute”?
At the first party I was accused of not playing along.
To this day, I’m not sure if I should be offended or not. Did they really think I came dressed like Tickle-Me-Elmo thinking I was NOT participating?
The following year proved a little more embarrassing and another complete fail. Neglecting to make my own dish to bring to the party, a quick stop at the local grocery store seemed like the easiest fix. That is, until we pulled up and not one of us wanted to get out of the car in our Christmas sweaters.
Somehow, I got elected.
As I grabbed the first pie I could find and dashed to the
finish checkout line, I thought I made it undetected. Then the clerk remarked in a loud voice, “I love your sweater! That is so cute.” Apparently, it was assumed this was part of my normal Christmas attire.
I mumbled a stunned and bewildered “thanks” and hurried out of the store.
Then there was last year when my girlfriend decided I needed help…
Inspired by a dream in 1943, Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a heart-warming short story titled “The Greatest Gift.“ When he failed to find a publisher, the author sent it out as his Christmas card the following year, no doubt inspiring friends and family alike. You probably recognize the movie version of the story that came out in 1946 as It’s a Wonderful Life.
In the film, George plans on traveling the world and then dabbling in college before heading off to build skyscrapers. He offers to “lasso the moon” for his sweetheart. Then life, as it often does, gets in the way of his plans. As dilemmas and circumstances come at him from all angles, he is confronted with decisions to make. One by one, he makes the right moral choice. There is always a price to pay for doing what’s right, rather than what seems pleasurable. Bit by bit, George’s future is exchanged for the needs of the present. Until at last, there is nothing left of the future he once envisioned, and he becomes suicidal.
In spite of all that, George is extremely lucky. He lives in the world of fiction where a rosy-cheeked guardian angel can change his entire life by altering reality for him. Then, when the hard lessons are learned, he can change it back again so George can enjoy the rest of his life in the light of his newfound knowledge.
What exactly did he learn?
Each life has a profound impact on the world around him. His angel scolded,
You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you—the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.
Viktor Frankl learned a similar lesson that very same Christmas. However, it did not come in a dream. Frankl lived in the real world, where some of life’s most profound lessons are not taught by kind men with peaceful blue eyes. Instead, they are learned at the cruel hand of fate and a reality that allows no escape from sorrow.
The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year’s, 1945, increased in camp beyond all previous experience…the explanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of weather or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas.
Unlike George, these men were not denying the gift of life they had been given. They were clawing for it. For the prisoners of Auschwitz, their salvation was within their grasp once they realized what it was.
For most of our adult lives, television at the Robinson household consisted of a large antenna in the attic. We jokingly called it “farm vision.” Then we did what all old people do when their children are grown–we moved into town. I really enjoyed the luxury of cable–that is for about two years. Then I started to feel a bit cheated.
This past year forced us to reevaluate almost every aspect of our lives: our health, our lifestyle and our spending habits. When assessing the cost of cable, and the value it brings–cutting it was a no-brainer.
However, my husband and I both have favorite programs we enjoy. I’m not going to lie, as an information-junkie, my withdrawals from news and commentary hit fairly hard.
We’ve had AppleTV, and enjoyed streaming Netflix and routinely mirrored videos or live streaming church services or breaking news. But it really doesn’t offer a whole lot more than what’s on your computer or iPad.
Pronounced Row-Koo. If you’re considering Apple TV as an alternative to cable or DVD rentals checkout Roku first.
Roku is a little black device about the size of the palm of your hand and it streams Internet “channels” to your television. Roku comes loaded with access to over 1000 channels.
It’s a mixed bag of hundreds of free content and paid subscriptions. The best part about it, is you can add the channels you want and you’re not forced to weed through hundreds of channels to get to the couple you prefer. You can get Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, Amazon Instant Video, PBS, The Blaze and Fox News. There are no fees connected with the device itself after the initial purchase. You will have to have wi-fi of course, as it is a streaming device.
Roku currently offers four different devices starting at $49.99. You can add a few bells and whistles at a time.
Currently, we have a yearly subscription to Amazon Prime, and are in the process of comparing Redbox (which offers four DVDs and unlimited streaming for $8.00 monthly) and Netflix. The subscriptions or combination you choose all depend on your viewing habits.
We have enjoyed the ability to watch entire seasons of television shows, watching episodes back to back without commercial interruption. Who cares if they are last year’s season–I’m no longer subjected to ED commercials or dating sites no matter how late we stay up.
You now have several options.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs, to mark seasons and days and years…” Genesis 1:14 (NIV)
Having a real aversion to doomsday predictions, I’ve never paid any attention to people claiming to know when the end is near–and I still don’t.
Frankly, or maybe shamefully, I’ve never explored the book of Revelation much either. As a mother of nine natural born children, I filed it under the same category as giving birth: nobody gets to sleep through it–you’ll know when it happens.
However, as a Christian who believes in the God of Israel, it’s becoming glaringly obvious we need to understand how the Creator of the universe records timenin the heavens. The “expanse of the sky” is a mathematical clock by which all creation keeps time.
Apparently, that’s why our Jewish friends keep a separate calendar. Good to know, right?
In 2008 Mark Biltz saw an image circulating on the Internet of a blood-moon over the Dome of the Rock. It struck him. As a pastor, his first thoughts went to scripture that describes the moon turning to blood.
“I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
So he did what any man of faith would do–checked NASA’s website. What he discovered has Christians around the world checking their calendar–and looking over Jewish shoulders at theirs’.
“Fundamentally, therefore, any man can even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’”
The common charge against the goodness of God, is that of human suffering. Could only a world without pain provide evidence that God is good and loving? The underlying assumption is that all suffering and sorrow is evil.
A distinction must be made — evil inflicts suffering. Not all suffering is destructive–or evil.
“You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes us to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child…”
– CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain
It’s human nature to desire comfort and happiness. Most of us spend our days seeking the sort of happiness in this world as Lewis calls ”comfortable guests” who live “happy in our own way.” And yet often we can have that along with many physical comforts, and still hold misery deep inside that can’t be explained or fixed by anything external.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Matthew 2-11
In my series on Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus, the author explains that one of the primary reasons Jews refuse to accept Jesus of Nazareth as the promised messiah, was his failed attempt at liberating his people from the oppression of the Roman Empire.
However, in ancient times, not everyone used Boteach’s litmus test.
Some looked for the sign of the coming messiah in the stars. The story goes that three “wise men” came from the east bringing gifts, following a star to worship a new king. And so it goes, the rich historical account of the birth of Christ is watered down to a manger scene, reenacted every year by Sunday school children and illuminated in plastic on lawns everywhere.
But what if we read the book of Matthew as an accurate historical document? What, if anything, actually happened on December 25th?
Using Matthew as his guide, indisputable historical facts and today’s technology, one man did just that– what he found will astound you.
If you were to place a knife under your jaw and begin to slowly cut– with the intent of slitting your own throat, at some point before the deed was done your hand would stop. The searing pain, mingled with fear would make it physically impossible for you to continue–at least, unaided. Neither your physical body, nor your mind would allow you to continue on that unthinkable path.
So it is, when considering what it would be like, to lose a child. It’s simply impossible to accurately express the depth of that pain. There is a threshold, which your mind will not let you cross. Only by the blunt-force trauma of reality can that barrier be breached. Even then, the assault of reality must prove itself before the mind will allow that agony admittance.
In the same way, we are prohibited from truly grasping the atrocities suffered by the souls in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The mind simply will not permit us to grasp the sorrow of so many empty shoes.
In Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, the author, having survived Auschwitz, writes of his experience– not to record the atrocities, rather to answer the question as to why anyone at all would survive.
The preface to the 1992 edition explains:
“This book has now lived to see nearly one hundred printings in English–in addition to having been published in twenty-one other languages. And the English edition alone has sold more than three million copies.
These are the dry facts, and they may well be the reason why reporters of American newspapers and particularly of American TV stations more often than not start their interviews, after listing these facts, by exclaiming: ‘Dr. Frankl, your book has become a true bestseller– how do you feel about such a success?’ Where upon I react by reporting that in the first place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.” [Emphasis mine]
Although the smoke from the Auschwitz crematorium has long ceased, evil still thrives in seats of power today. In the midst, is a new generation growing up in a culture that sends everyone home with a trophy. The relevance of Frankl’s work, and the lessons of the past may be the very thing missing to change the future.
You are cordially invited to walk with me over the next few Sundays, as we explore Man’s Search for Meaning.
While you’re contemplating Christmas, you might want to consider which side you’re on.
No doubt you’ve heard all about the war on Christmas. Every year there’s a new battle over “holiday trees” and Christmas carols. The latest skirmish is school board meeting in Wausau, WI over new rules on “religious songs”.
While Bill O’Reilly may consider this a real attack on Christianity, I don’t think it compares to the Christian-on-Christian attacks Christmas has endured over recent years.
Do you put up a Christmas tree? Do you hang a wreath on your front door, or kiss your beloved under the mistletoe?
Christians in-the-know will tell you that December 25th is NOT Jesus’ birthday, and your Christmas tree is an idol.
The fir tree was worshiped in Rome as the same new-born god, named Baal-Berith, who was restored to life by the same serpent. A feast was held in honor of him on December 25th, observed as the day on which the god reappeared on earth — he had been killed, and was “reborn” on that day, victorious over death! It was called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.” Thus, the annual custom of erecting and decorating evergreen trees was brought down to us through the centuries by the pagan Roman Catholic Church — the paganism of Tammuz and Baal, or the worship of the sun, mingled with the worship of Aesculapius the serpent. Whether erected in private homes or in churches, decorated or not, the evergreen tree is a glaring symbol of this false god.
According to this same website, Christmas wreaths are also a direct descendant of the unholy marriage of paganism and the Christian church. The wreath stands for the eternal sun, also the sign of female. A stolen kiss under the mistletoe, dates back to the ancient Druids, and represents a false messiah.
The mistletoe symbolized the reconciliation between God and man. And since a kiss is the well known symbol of reconciliation, that is how “kissing under the mistletoe” became a custom — both were tokens of reconciliation. The mistletoe, being a sacred plant and a symbol of fertility, was also believed to contain certain magical powers, having been brought to earth from heaven by a mistle thrush carrying it in its toes (hence the name). It was once known as the “plant of peace,” and in ancient Scandinavia, enemies were reconciled under it (yet another reason why people came to “kiss under the mistletoe”). It was supposed to bring “good luck” and fertility, and even to protect from witchcraft the house in which it hung.
I’ve heard others go so far as to say that by bringing a tree into your home, kneeling down to put presents under it is a form of worship.
This kind of drivel is as close to reality as the ridiculous cartoon manger scene above.
Trust me, by the time an Amish man peddles to the phone shed, to call and tell you his wife is in labor you’d better hurry.
About a lifetime ago, I had the privilege of assisting a wonderful midwife that served the nearby Amish community. Not all Amish have their babies at home. Those who did seldom had any trouble.
With flashlights in hand and heavy medical bags over our shoulders we would make our way through the dark up to the big house. Slipping in through the kitchen door we still needed our flashlights to make our way around the dimly lit house. We were silent as mice, for fear of waking a houseful of sleeping children. Once in the bedroom, with little said, we would begin to set up the birthing supplies.
The rooms were lit by kerosene lamps, and usually heated by propane or wood stoves. The smell of wood burning and the warm glow always made their homes feel so peaceful.
Part of my job entailed keeping the mother comfortable. I carried a bag of tricks in the form of essential oils for just that purpose. Soon we would add the aroma of Lavender, Frankincense and Ylang-ylang.
A Thermos lunch bucket filled with hot water spiked with oils and several warm washcloths, kept fragrant, healing hot compresses close at hand. A cloth handkerchief doused with just the right combination of oils, tucked tightly in the laboring mother’s hand, took the place of modern pain relievers.
The chapter “Biblical Medicine: Herbs, Essential Oils, Hydrotherapy, and Music Therapy“ in Jordan S Rubin’s book The Maker’s Diet, took me back to those simple rooms and peaceful deliveries.
It seems so odd, I know. We are just so far removed from the simplicity, and bounty of creation it sounds foreign:
“Send someone from our Western civilization for medicine, and they will head for the nearest pharmacy. Send someone from East Asia or Central and South America (who has not been “Westernized”) for medicine, and they would more likely head for the nearest herb garden or herbal outgrowth in the wild. They may return with herbs or essentials oils extracted from herbs of the field.”
The good news is you don’t need to give birth to benefit from essential oils or be a midwife to learn to use them.
Here are my favorite blends for pain, sleep and concentration.
It’s never been my habit to argue religion–in public or private. I hold a deep personal faith as a follower of Christ, for which I feel no need to defend. Nor do I wish to push anyone else into defense mode. My intention was to provoke my readers to introspection, not to challenge convictions, but to test assumptions–especially about a faith not personally held.
Like many of my readers, I knew this type of a series could easily degenerate from lofty ideals and restoration to falling into the same deep crevices of ignorance and hate that has divided us for centuries.
Thanks to the nature of the vast majority of the PJMedia readership, that fear never materialized. Instead, they deposited nuggets of wisdom within the comment sections.
Several readers suggested resources for further study such as Dr. Michael Kogan’s Opening the Covenant, and The Life of Messiah, From a Jewish Perspective the DVD series by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Many sources were cited, and I found much of the commentary compelling and thoughtful.
Prof.lw wrote in the comments on ”Could We Restore America If Jews and Christians Accepted An Hyphenated Jesus?“:
Prof.lw points to the real fork in the road for the two faiths.
Unfortunately, the good rabbi discredits himself with Christians by deconstructing the gospels, painting Paul as a lying opportunist and giving no credence to the accounts of the resurrection rendering a quite different Jesus.
The Boteach-Jesus that the author constructs is not the Christian-Jesus. Not because of Judaism, as the author presumes– rather, as Prof.lw asserts, because of the vast and profound difference between “WAS” and “IS.”
In this rapidly changing and hostile world, Christians and Jews alike must let go of real and perceived hurts from history. We have to accept our differences as our strengths.
One last quote in closing:
“The world today needs both a philosophy of peace and leaders of peace. I feel deeply that Christians and Jews can supply both in great measure– and together form the visible vanguard for real tik-kun olam, healing of the world. Surprising as it may sound to Jews, one of the important keys to it all is Jesus.”
Then the hyphen between us becomes a linking of arms.
Photo Credits Shutterstock Carlos E. Santa Maria
Do you remember the segment on Sesame Street where they presented a zoomed-in view of an ordinary object? Then you were supposed to guess what it was?
You couldn’t recognize it at first, because the camera came in so close, it distorted the picture. The focal point is only one small portion of the object. Its details become the entire picture. Then your mind interprets the part as a whole, and renders it something completely different than it actually is.
That’s what often happens to Christmas. You have to take in the entire picture, to view it clearly and appreciate its true beauty.
If you start planning too soon, you zoom-out too far and all the details seem meaningless. Zoom-in too close, like the days before, and it all becomes distorted.
That’s when we become zeroed-in on one aspect and Christmas is in danger of becoming hollow and superficial, which is the complete opposite of what it is supposed to be — and what children need it to be.
Last minute shopping is the usual default focal point. That’s also when we fall in the trap of over-buying, debt and stress.
Focusing on just the gift aspect doesn’t just do damage to your bank account. I’ve heard more than one person complain, and become hurt, because of the gifts they were given — usually by a spouse.
While that sounds shallow, it’s not. Gifts wrapped in thoughtlessness do more damage than good. Ask the lady whose husband shops at the hardware store three days before Christmas — she’ll tell you who’s selfish.
In “13 Week Countdown To Christmas: When Something’s Just Not Right,” I explained that I love the “feel” of Christmas. I truly enjoy creating an atmosphere in my home that illuminates what Christmas means to our family. However, I get in trouble when I wait to start planning until I get in the mood for Christmas.
With 12 weeks to go, it doesn’t feel a bit like Christmas — frankly, I’m not in the mood yet. But we have the advantage of the right distance to view it with the proper perspective.
Let’s create a Christmas that our families will cherish.
“I once heard a man say that the creation of the refrigerator was one of the worst inventions for our health.”
At first glance that statement seems preposterous, and at face value it is. According to Jordan Rubin, the essence of the man’s lamentation was not the actual refrigerator, rather the loss of fermentation as a preservative and all the health benefits that we once derived from it.
As more people are seeking new and healthy lifestyles, the lost art of fermentation is making a comeback.
There is a new trendy drink that is actually centuries old, it’s called Kombucha. Kombucha starts out as little more than a sweet tea that would make any southerner smile. Then, with the help of a pale colored disk a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” otherwise known as a SCOBY, your sweet tea transforms into a probiotic-laden powerhouse.
Health food stores carry shelves of the stuff in all flavors. One of my favorite coffeehouses actually sells Kombucha on tap and it costs about the same as a Latte.
In this week’s mining of The Maker’s Diet, the author explains that every long-lived culture in the world consumed fermented vegetables, dairy and meat. Fermentation reaches back six thousand years into Chinese culture, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia buried sweet potatoes, and ancient Roman manuscripts describe lacto-fermented sauerkraut.
“Fermentation is especially effective in releasing important nutritional compounds through “pre-digestion” that would otherwise pass through the human digestive system, undigested and unused.”
According to the author, our modern large scale vinegar-based fermentation techniques won’t do the trick. It’s the lactic acid fermentation, driven by the beneficial microorganisms that we need to break down foods into usable compounds and inhibit “putrefying” bacterial growth.
It’s common knowledge that prolonged heat, processing and pasteurization kills all enzymes. What isn’t so well known is that, according to Dr. Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition we are all born with a finite number of enzymes. That’s why it’s important to consume as many outside enzymes as possible from raw food sources.
My PJ Lifestyle colleague Charlie Martin explored the need for a healthy gut in his popular 13 Weeks post “I Got Bugs“:
“One of the interesting research areas recently has been a number of reports that obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and more serious problems like various kinds of inflammatory bowel disease all seem to associate with differences in the population of the bugs in your gut.”
Charlie’s approach is to use probiotics from Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care– and so far he is having great success. This isn’t surprising, Garden of Life was founded by our featured author Jordan Rubin.
We’ve also used probiotics over the last year and the benefits are numerous. So much so, I really don’t want to be without it.
The problem is that probiotics are expensive — especially a good quality brand. My philosophy on dieting and health is that it must be a sustainable change that can last throughout a lifetime. Call me cheap or rebellious, but I just hate being dependent on any product, no matter how good it is.
A healthy gut is vitally important. So over the last couple of months I’ve been experimenting with Kombucha for a more natural intake of “good” bacteria, yeast and probiotics.
Making it at home is ridiculously easy and inexpensive. Here’s how I did it.