Most of his contemporaries found it difficult to recognize in Jesus the fulfillment of the promises because they perceived Him through the glasses of their expectations. How much more difficult is it today, after centuries of traditions proliferating over the event of his birth? Only with a heart enlightened by faith can we rediscover the original, encounter the Messiah and truly celebrate Christmas.
I feel the need to share in this article thoughts about one of the most important events in the history of mankind, in the hope that we can see this event with different eyes and have a new relationship with it.
All human beings have a deep desire for happiness, for lasting joy, for peace and freedom, for being loved, for dignity and respect, for unbreakable belonging and a lasting home — no more disappointments, no more humiliation, no more bitterness, no more fear. No matter what circumstances, culture or religion we are born into: This existential longing is common to all human beings. However, when we are offered the true fulfillment of our longing, it is not a given that we will actually accept the offer. For we often have fixed ideas about what should make our lives happy and satisfying. How quickly we fall for the lie that our desire for indestructible happiness could be satisfied by means of money, power, success or unlimited pleasure. Our own ideas of how we should be helped get in the way and do not allow us to recognize the help that is offered. Especially when it is God who offers us this help.
GOD'S THOUGHTS ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS
God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways" (Isaiah 55:8). Herein lies our problem with the mysterious event of Christmas Eve. I actually don't like to use the word Christmas anymore, because it has been so distorted and covered up by centuries of traditions and customs that we have lost the message in the great noise and hoopla. I prefer the Hebrew word "Yom huledet" – day of birth. Under normal circumstances, a birth is a celebration of joy because new life becomes visible. The celebration of the Christmas birth is more than all the joyful festivals that are celebrated millions of times in the world. Christmas is an event through which heaven and earth have been shaken and changed forever.
We celebrate the birth of the one for whom the people of Israel, and with them all the peoples of the world, have been waiting since the beginning of creation. His name is given as Jesus (Hebrew "Yeshua") which means "God saves". He is also called "Immanuel", which means "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14).
All the prophets have been looking forward to Him. All of them have predicted his coming, have proclaimed that He will heal the mortally sick heart of man and take away everything that makes life hell and destroys it. That is why the angel said to the shepherds in the field: "Behold, I proclaim great joy to you, which will be to all people, because the Savior is born to you today" (Luke 2:10-11). The Savior: the one who saves, the one who corrects, the one who sets free! The apostle John expresses it like this: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... full of grace and truth" (John 1:14, 17). In a merciless world, contaminated by lies, which destroys itself through selfishness, God is born as a man in order to take care of people, as the prophets had predicted, to satisfy their existential desire and to give them what they long for.
GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISES
Isaiah foresaw that our stuck ideas, defiance and unwillingness to listen to the Word of God would make it impossible for us to recognize the Messiah at His coming. That is why the prophet said: "Who believed what was proclaimed to us, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? He sprang up before him like a rice, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form and majesty. We saw him, but there was no form to please us" (Isaiah 53:1-2). What tragedy! Israel, as a people who had been waiting for the Savior from generation to generation, did not recognize Him when He came – even though His appearance caused the people to be in an uproar and to say, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel" (Matthew 9:33). Although he healed people in body, soul and spirit and revealed the kingdom of God to them with an authority they had never seen before.
But Jesus did not correspond to their ideas of power and dominion. His absolute devotion to the Father, His renunciation of the power possibilities of this world exposed the motives of their hearts. That is why they rejected Him. They did not let God tell them anything, just as the prophet had foretold: "I stretched out my hands all day long to a disobedient people, who walk according to their own thoughts in a way that is not good" (Isaiah 65:2).
Like Israel, the vast majority of humanity continues to behave to this day. The greatest occasion of joy since the existence of creation is covered up, distorted or simply ignored in suicidal mania with all conceivable material, ideological and religious means. What a tragedy that we humans reject the only hand that can save us. Have we heard God?
Thank God that in Israel and among the nations there were and are those righteous people for whose sake judgment is withheld. This is already clear in Abraham's intercession for Sodom. These righteous are people of whom Jesus says are of the truth and, therefore, hear His voice (John 18:37). People who listen unconditionally to the Word of God and obey Him when He speaks to them. Such a righteous man was Simeon. This old man, who – like most of his Jewish contemporaries – longed for the coming of the Messiah, the Savior, heard from the Holy Spirit the promise: You will not die until you have seen the Messiah (Luke 2:26).
Such a thing must first be believed! Simeon believed it. When he saw the newborn on the arms of the two poor people in the temple, his heart's eyes opened. He recognized in this child the salvation of the world. For he had listened carefully to the word of God and had not looked for the Messiah according to his own ideas.
Since according to biblical principle "every thing shall be confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses" (2 Corinthians 13:1), the aged prophetess Hanna found herself in the same time in the temple. Hannah, a widow who, like Simeon, had been waiting for the Messiah, also recognized in the newborn the promised Savior.
RECOGNIZING GOD'S SALVATION
The prayer of Simeon reveals to us what happens when people look at the salvation of the world with their hearts and do not remain attached to the external by their own considerations: "Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, as you have said; for my eyes have seen your Savior ..." (Luke 2:28-34). He who beholds the salvation of God with his heart comes to peace.
Simeon arrived at the goal by seeing the Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of all that he had waited for all his life. "Now you let your servant go in peace ..." There is one who can say: Lord, now I can let go of everything, now all struggle ceases for me, all struggling for my life, all being driven, all inner loneliness and fear, all homelessness. All this has come to an end. I have seen your salvation.
If we have not yet come to rest in our lives, then perhaps we have received and accepted salvation with the mind, but have not yet seen it with the heart. The mind must surrender so that the eyes of the heart can open. We must expose ourselves with our whole being to the salvation of God; then we will experience how Jesus shakes our lives out of love for us. Everything that we ourselves have built up in order to establish, protect and defend ourselves, He will take apart and tear down in order to rebuild our lives on His foundation. Since this process is very sobering and often painful, we behave like the people of Israel, of whom God says: "All day long I have stretched out my hands to a rebellious people who pursue their own thoughts." (Isaiah 65:2)
To look at Jesus, the Messiah and Savior with the heart means to trust in His love in everything. To obediently surrender to His actions, knowing that "His thoughts are not our thoughts, and our ways are not His ways."
Marcel is the director of “Community of Reconciliation” (COR), which he founded in 1988. He came to Israel in 1994 with his wife Regula and their four now grown children. Marcel serves as an elder in a messianic congregation in Jerusalem. He is involved with other leaders in Jerusalem and nationwide, facilitating fellowship, unity and cooperative efforts to advance God’s purposes for the messianic body in Jerusalem and in Israel.