Author’s Note: Readers who missed Vol. 2 – 40 of this series click here, but Vol.1 is here.
Our Bible study this Christmas Sunday concludes the “reason for the season” mini-series. We began with “Why Simeon Meeting the Baby Jesus Is So Profound,” Vol. 38. Then stepped back and discussed, “Mary and Elizabeth, Both Miraculously Pregnant, Have a Visitation,” Vol. 39. Followed by last week’s “Isaiah Foretells the Coming of Christ,” Vol. 40. And now, “Why Jesus Was Born Jewish” – a “controversial” topic that necessitates me donning extra-strength body armor.
But before some readers unleash poison arrows through cyberspace, here is a personal Jewish Christmas story that might help reduce the castigation and vitriol heading my way.
As loyal readers know, my Kahn family was Jewish by heritage and culture, but was not religiously observant. We belonged to the local temple, but our membership was more social, as described in Vol. 28. By sixth grade, I was annoyed about not celebrating Christmas since (in my opinion) Hanukah was an inadequate alternative.
Compounding this pre-teen angst, we sang Christmas carols in my public school (circa the 1960s) in preparation for our Christmas concert. That’s when I remember singing “The First Noel” and being confused by the lyric refrain, “…born is the king of Israel.”
Previously, I had learned from my Grandma Kahn that Jesus was Jewish. (In a dismissive manner during her otherwise proud discussion about all the famous Jews who had ever lived.) Since I knew Christmas marked His birth — and after I repeatedly sang that this “Jewish” Jesus was “born the king of Israel” — then why didn’t we celebrate Christmas?
My mother’s answer was, “We are Jewish, and Jews don’t believe in Jesus.” Not a satisfying response considering this dilemma was about ME being left out of Christmas.
Eventually, I learned the simple answer: Jews are still waiting for the Messiah because Jesus was rejected by the vast majority. Even with all the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) Jesus did not then, and does not now, qualify. But today, we will not discuss rejection because the Easter season will be here soon enough, starting on February 17. Instead, we will rejoice and explore what the angel Gabriel told Mary in the following two verses providing 98 percent of the reasons why Jesus was born Jewish:
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33).
Let’s skip to Joseph, the one to whom Mary was betrothed. Around the same time as Mary’s angelic conversation with Gabriel, Joseph was told by an angel in a dream the shocking truth about Mary: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Among ancient Jews, sin was redeemed in the temple, but only through animal sacrifice. (See Vol. 28 “Yom Kippur and the Scapegoat, and Vol. 29 “Lamb of God”).
Therefore, the notion of a yet to be born “son” saving “his people from their sins” was countercultural, to state it mildly. But we know that about three decades later, the angel’s words were fulfilled. Jesus becomes the sacrificial Lamb of God who, on the cross, took upon Himself the sins of the world.
Moreover, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Yehoshua, shortened to Yeshua, meaning “the Lord is salvation.” (And salvation means deliverance from the power and effects of sin).
Continuing the scripture passage, Gabriel said to Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Eventually, Jesus’ greatness will be revealed through his dual identity: He is the “Son” (Messiah) and the “Most High” — how God is often referred to throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.
How is Jesus the Messiah, and the “Son”?
The answer is given to us next: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The Hebrew Bible promises that the Messiah will descend from David’s line, and both Mary and Joseph were descendants.
And two more spectacular reasons according to Gabriel, “He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his Kingdom will never end.” Note that “Jacob’s descendants” were the “children of Israel” — God’s chosen people. (You can read why God “chose” them in the Hebrew Bible book of Deuteronomy 7: 6-11). Lastly, God’s kingdom, and that of “the Son of the Most High” is one and the same — “his Kingdom will never end.”
The angel Gabriel’s message as recorded in Luke 1:31-33, has always and will continue forever to impact humankind.
“Every year, the world grinds to a halt to celebrate or in some way acknowledge the birth of a Jewish baby to a homeless Jewish couple in a backwater town in the land of Israel. It is an awesome thing and the manifestation of an ancient mystery: Christianity is Jewish, the fulfillment of the ancient promise given through the Hebrew prophets of the Jewish Messiah, who is at once the Hope of Israel and the Light of the World.”
Just as the refrain from “The First Noel” reminds us, “born is the king of Israel,” let’s celebrate the Jewish Jesus as the true and real reason for this Christmas season and every season, forever and ever.
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: [email protected] or Twitter @MyraKAdams.
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