Santa and the Messiah

Santa Worshiping the Newborn King

Do you remember how it felt when you believed in Santa Claus? I certainly do, and actually had an encounter with THE Santa during a long-ago visit with our youngest daughter.

For a few years in the late 1990s, it was our habit to go see Santa on Christmas Eve at the mall. We had a favorite Santa (I won’t say which mall), and if you visited Santa after 2:00pm or so on Christmas Eve, there were plenty of parking spaces and almost no line to see The Man in Red. It didn’t hurt that the stores were emptying out, and so I could do a bit of last-minute shopping without all the crowds.

On one of those visits, our daughter—then about 6 or 7 years old—hopped onto Santa’s lap, and proceeded to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. I didn’t hear much of the conversation, but I do remember a few, “Yes, sirs” and “No, sirs”. After a minute or so, and the requisite picture taking, she hopped down and starting walking over to me.

While she was walking back, Santa called out to me, “Hey, Dan, come here for a second!” Wait, what did he say? “Hey, DAN…!” Whoa! I know that he’s my favorite Santa and all, but he’s really just one of Santa’s helpers, right? I mean, I KNOW who Santa really is. But, this Santa just called me by my first name!

My heart literally skipped a beat, and I felt that same thing that I did as a kid. As I walked over to Santa, he leaned over and said, “You have one of the most polite children I’ve seen this season. Good job and Merry Christmas.” Now THE Santa was telling me that I was a good parent too!

Then, my mind caught up with my hearing.

It must have been replaying that moment over and over, because as I was getting ready to say, “Thank, you,” it occurred to me that Santa had not actually called me by my first name. Instead, he had simply said, “Hey, ‘DAD,’ come here for a second!

That’s when the sweating started, and I laughed. Here I was in my 30’s, and I really thought—even if for just a moment—that this was the REAL Santa.

I’ve thought about this moment every year since that time, and I’ve realized something. We are all looking forward to some greater Truth, some greater existence. And for those of us who have accepted God’s Messiah, Jesus, as our Lord and Savior, we really are—deep down—looking forward to seeing Him face to face.

Perhaps not everyone identifies this longing through his/her connection with Santa Claus. But for me, this interaction with Santa has taught me something about the great longing Israel had for their Messiah to come. And the longing that I have to see His return.

A couple of thousand years have passed since He was born here in the land where we now live, which, ironically tends to strip Christmas completely of its American holiday ‘feelings’. Many of those around us are desperately seeking a messiah, and wonder when he will arrive. For us, we are longing to see Israel’s Messiah return, just as He promised, and at that time we’ll see Him face to face.

And I’m sure that my heart will skip a beat (or more) when I hear Him say, “Hey, Dan, come over here…

Until that time arrives, it’s every Christian’s responsibility to introduce others around us to Him. And for those who respond, to make disciples of the Messiah and King.

May you have a Merry Christmas, blessed with opportunities to spread true Christmas cheer. For it truly is “Christmas”—”the Messiah was sent”—and He is coming again soon! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Rightly Dividing

For my fellow co-workers in Arab and Muslim contexts, we need to discuss this…

In the article below (see link), the author makes reference to how one of the early Islamic commentators quoted directly from the Gospels (of an Arabic Bible) yet never once contextualized any of the terminologies of the Bible to islamicize them (see his second paragraph in this article).

Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises, because the interpreter (and the missionary) is handling God’s Word. If/when we use translations and stories that islamicize Biblical names, concepts and terminologies, are we not making the Word of God a dhimmi to the Quran, hadiths and Islam in general?

We believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” But are we “rightly handling the word of truth” if we intentionally use Islam-specific terminology to teach the Truth?

Allah (of the Quran) is not akbar/greater (الله من القرآن مش أكبر).

Jesus/YHWH is akbar/greater than all other gods (يسوع المسيح أكبر).

https://biblia-arabica.com/the-transmission-of-the-arabic-bible-in-islamic-contexts-vatican-bav-ms-copt-9-in-al-biqaʿis-tafsir/

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

WheelsOnTheBus

Just about 10 minutes from our home, there is a national park with a beautiful (if steep) hike down to waterfalls and rapids, which originate from fresh springs bubbling out of the ground just about half a mile away at ancient Caesarea Philippi. We try to do an early morning hike (to avoid the heat) once a week just to get in some exercise, but also to enjoy the beauty.

The refreshing spring water reminds me of something that happened on the final day of Sukkot—the Feast of Booths—about 2,000 years ago. Since the final day of this year’s Sukkot occurred earlier this week, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss something that happened on that long-ago day.

But first, we need to set the stage.

During this weeklong feast, the priests would set up four huge menorahs in the courtyard of the temple, with each branch of the menorah being the size of a large torch. It must have been an amazing thing to see, with the courtyard full of people from around the known world, as this was one of the three annual feasts during which the Israelites were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate.

At the beginning of the celebration, the priests walked from the temple in Jerusalem down to the pool of Siloam in order to fill up a golden container with water from the natural spring which filled it. As they returned, ascending the long path from the pool up to the temple (which is probably the same road that one walks up today after hiking through Hezekiah’s tunnel), the shofar was blown, and the people waved their palm fronds along the route reciting portions of the Psalms of Ascent (chapters 120-134). After returning to the temple, the priest on duty would pour out a bit of the collected water each day as a libation to the LORD. It was a way of beseeching God for abundant rain in the upcoming rainy (winter) season.

On the last great day of the feast, the priests would circle the altar seven times and then pour out the remaining water from the golden pitcher onto the base of the altar. This was called the Hoshana Rabbah, which is translated, “the great save us now.” Water in this region was—and still is—scarce. So this was a great plea from the people for God to send plenty of rain in the upcoming winter season, because without water to replenish the rivers and the natural underground springs, the people could not survive.

The apostle John tells us that on the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus, who initially told his family that he wasn’t going up to Jerusalem for this feast, did indeed go to Jerusalem, where he stood up–and with a very loud voice–said to everyone there in the temple area, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” One can easily imagine that he made this pronouncement immediately followed the pouring of the Hoshana Rabbah water libation.

Imagine the controversy this would have started! The priests had just poured out the final water libation to the God of the universe asking for water, and Jesus was the one who immediately answered them. It was as if God spoke in a loud voice saying, “I hear you!” In fact, it actually was the Creator speaking to them.

From this point, we see the argument among the people and the priests and Pharisees. They wanted to arrest him. After all, Jesus was proclaiming himself to be the one who could quench their spiritual thirst.

Interestingly—especially considering the controversies in our country right now—one of the Pharisees, a man named Nicodemus, asked those who wanted to arrest Jesus, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?

And then, the other leaders threw Nicodemus under the bus for upholding the law, saying, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.The contempt bleeds through the text.

It seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same. The wheels on the bus go…