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What's right with Christmas? by Aaron Hecht

(Aaron with some of his favorite Christmas tree decorations)

I'm writing this blog on a cold, rainy, windy afternoon in Jerusalem. It is the 24th of December according to the Gregorian calendar, making it Christmas Eve, a day that many Hebrew-Roots folks and Messianic Jews love to hate.

At this time of year, you'll see lots of blogs and videos by these folks telling you all the reasons why followers of Yeshua should not only have nothing to do with this "pagan holiday" but that we should, at this time of year, make a special effort to make anyone who DOES celebrate this holiday feel bad about it. This rarely results in anyone "seeing the light" and deciding to stop celebrating Christmas, but it DOES lead to a lot of acrimony, hurt feelings, damaged relationships (including within families and congregations), and divisions.

In other words, all the things Satan the Devil loves to see.

I'm not going to say too much about that because I've already written several blogs about this topic in years past and so have many other people. I think the best blog I ever wrote about Christmas and the issues surrounding it was entitled "Oh come let us condemn them" and you can check it out if you want.

In this blog, I'd rather talk about what's RIGHT with Christmas.

For starters, God is moving among Israeli Jews and Christmas is part of it.

I have never been able to understand why so many people believe that Jews find Christmas "offensive" and by celebrating it we'll damage our witness to them. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. For the 21 years I've lived in Israel I've seen Christmas becoming more and more popular among Jewish people here, including not just secular Israelis but many religiously observant people.

The reason is obvious. It's because Israelis are very fond of their families, especially the children. In my observation, Israelis will seize on any opportunity to have fun with their families and give their children happy memories, and even if they don't celebrate Christmas themselves they certainly don't begrudge anyone else the opportunity to do so.

When I have Jewish people in my home this time of year, including Orthodox people, they always smile at my Christmas tree (especially the Israeli flag I have up on the top) and ask cute questions about it.  They understand I'm doing it because I love my children and want them to be happy. It is not uncommon for these people to make suggestions for how I could make it even more fun for my kids, usually basing their advice on Christmas movies they've watched.

I also post pictures of my Christmas tree and other decorations on my Facebook page and intersperse them with pictures of my family lighting Hanukkah candles. This sparks a lot of online conversations with my Facebook friends which often spill over when I see them in the real world.

These conversations are always cordial and warm, with lots of humor and laughter. But sometimes these conversations sparked by the Christmas decorations lead to some very serious conversations about the Bible, which is my favorite thing about them.

Speaking of which, I know dozens of Israeli Jewish Believers whose journey to faith in their Messiah included a visit to a Christmas party in Jerusalem's Old City. Christmas is one of the best evangelistic tools I know of here in Israel.

That might be because, on Christmas Eve, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews visit these churches to enjoy the fun atmosphere. Thousands of them take home the free copies of the New Testament made available by these churches to visitors. These New Testaments are in Hebrew, Russian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and probably several other languages.

If it wasn't for Christmas, there'd be no reason for any of these Israeli Jews to ever visit a church in the Old City or anywhere else in Jerusalem, and they'd be very unlikely to take a free copy of the New Testament anywhere else.

If you're down on Christmas but think it's good for Jews to read the New Testament, then take a moment and ask yourself how many Jewish people have ever read the New Testament because of all the anti-Christmas activities that the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish folks like to engage in at this time of year.

Take as long as you need to ponder the implications of the answer to that question.

Meanwhile, Christmas decorations, including trees, are becoming increasingly popular in Israel's department stores and other public venues.

(Aaron in front of the Christmas tree at Ben Gurion Airport in December 2022)

Last year I took my family on a short winter vacation to Cyprus in late December and when we came back there was a Christmas tree set up in the arrival hall at Ben Gurion Airport. All the Jewish people were walking past it with barely a glance, and many were even smiling at it. The only people who had anything negative to say about it were arriving Christian Zionist pilgrims who made angry, bitter faces and often made big theatrical shows of being offended and making sure everyone around them knew that they should be offended too. It was very sad for me to see that. Instead of taking advantage of the tree to start a conversation with Jewish people about the Gospel, these people indulged in an opportunity to bask in self-righteous indignation and virtue signaling.

Brothers and sisters, if you're still reading this, I have a simple request for anyone who is acting this way.

Stop trying to tell God what to do and instead get behind what God is doing.

That's all I'll say about that.

There's another thing about Christmas I think is very good, and that is the opportunity it gives us to make happy memories for our children and families.

I married a woman who came from a family which had been celebrating Christmas for generations. We got married in April and in mid-November I came home from work one day and there was a small Christmas tree set up in the living room of our tiny apartment. Some of you would probably say I should have picked that tree up and unceremoniously thrown it in the dumpster across the street and then stormed back into the apartment to give my wife a stern lecture about how Christmas trees are pagan and out of order and so on.

But, for better or for worse, I didn't do that.

Instead, I quietly decided to enjoy this new aspect of my life, along with all the other things that were changing in my life that first year I was a married man. Every year since then (it'll be our 13th anniversary in a few months) I've grown to love my wife more and more and I've also learned to enjoy Christmas more and more. In fact, these days my wife has to put her foot down and refuse my inclination to put the tree up and otherwise start decorating the apartment in late September.

Dr. James Dobson says, and I believe it's true, that traditions are the glue that binds families together. As a father, I know I am in competition with the Devil for the souls of my children. I need to take every single opportunity I can to show my children I love them more than he does, and they should listen to me when I teach them about life rather than him.

Christmas is one way I can do that.

I also want to take this opportunity to give my annual encouragement to my readers to use the imminent beginning of a new Gregorian calendar year to download the One Year Bible app and start reading through the entire Bible on January 1st.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, both, neither, or whatever, everyone should read the Bible all the way through at least once a year. You can never have too much of the Word of God in your life.

Going back to the theme of creating family traditions and happy memories, try reading the daily Bible portion to your children at bedtime. It doesn't matter what age they are. Sharing this experience will be good for you and them. I don't think there's any children anywhere, especially small children, who won't love it if their parents read to them at bedtime, and if it's the Bible you're reading to them, that just can't be beat.

So, with that, here's one last Christmas tradition. I have been watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special every year since I was a kid, especailly Linus' speech in which he tells us what Christmas is all about. One of the questions I plan on asking Yeshua when I see Him is how many people came to faith because of this speech. In any case brothers and sisters, I wish you a Merry Christmas and I hope this blog blessed you.

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