Tevat/Shevat 5774 January 2014
MA CHADASH? WHAT’S NEW?
December 28: Special New Year Concert With Barry and Batya Segal, starting at 10:15 a.m.: The Segals are musicians and the founders of Vision for Israel and The Joseph Storehouse humanitarian aid centers. Batya was born in Israel and met Messiah in 1978. Barry emigrated to Israel from the United States in 1981. Married in 1987, they have three children and reside in Israel. An offering will be taken to support their ministry of humanitarian aid. Invite your friends to end the year with us and with Barry and Batya!
Beginning Hebrew: We are offering a 10-week Hebrew class for beginners on Saturdays, beginning January 11 and ending March 15. The classes start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 10:00 a.m. The cost is $100 for those who are not part of the synagogue, but free for members. Children 10 years old and older may take the course. There will be a 50-percent discount for each additional member of a family who registers. To register, make your check payable to “Congregation Shema Yisrael” and indicate that it is for the Hebrew class. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. All payments must be made by January 11. For additional questions or to sign up, please email Jennifer at Jgoldstein@shema.com.
THANKS VERY MUCH!
A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The birth of Messiah represented the invasion of Earth by God Himself. But it wasn’t science fiction; it was historical fact. And the Incarnation wasn’t for the purpose of conquest, but rather to accomplish our redemption (though He has certainly conquered our hearts)! Wise men brought gifts to Yeshua and His earthly family while He was still in His infancy. They understood who this Child was, and valued Him highly. This was the One who would save mankind! We are grateful for the Gift of God, and deeply appreciate your gifts to Shema. May this season of remembering Messiah’s First Coming be filled with joy for you and your families!
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE INCARNATION
Humility was revealed by His birth. The One through whom the universe was made, the Son of the High King of Heaven, that Glorious Being who sits at His Father’s hand ruling Heaven and the galaxies, chose to become a small, frail, weak human being. He chose to be born, not to a free people, but to a conquered people. He chose to be born, not to a wealthy family, but to parents of humble circumstances. He was born, not in a palace fit for the King of Kings, but in the most humble of circumstances, and then placed not in warm and comfortable bed, but in a manger where animals ate. I love this quote from Max Lucado: “Messiah humbled Himself. He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw, from holding stars to clutching Mary’s finger. The palm that held the universe was impaled by a soldier.”
Prophets predicted His birth. Messiah’s birth was predicted by Israel’s prophets. The very first prophecy, in Genesis 3:15, gave hope to fallen humanity, informing us that the Lord had a plan to undo all the damage done in the garden of Eden. A human being would be born. The Seed of the Woman would come into this world and He would crush the head of the satanic serpent, reversing the damage the Adversary had just caused. According to a prophecy given to Abraham, Messiah would be the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the Earth are blessed. According to another prophecy in the Torah, the Messiah would be the star who will rise from Jacob and crush Israel’s deadly enemies. According to another prophecy in the Torah, Messiah is the prophet greater than Moses who will be born to the Jewish people. He will speak for God. We must recognize who He is and listen to Him – or suffer for dishonoring Him and rejecting Him. According to a prophecy given by Jacob, Messiah will be born into the family of Judah, and He will receive the obedience of the peoples. According to a prophecy given to King David, Messiah would be born into his family. This Son of David will sit on King David’s throne, ruling over Israel and the nations forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). According to a prophecy of Isaiah, Messiah would be a Jewish child born to us, but also the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity and the Prince of Peace. He would sit on David’s throne and rule righteously and justly over Israel and the nations forever. According to other prophecies in Isaiah, Messiah would be the Suffering Servant who will make a new covenant with the peoples. He will bring them into a relationship with the Living God. He will bring the Jewish people back to God. He will be a light to the nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the Earth. He will be despised and rejected, yet ultimately famous and victorious. He will be rejected by the majority of the Jewish people, suffer and die, but come back to life, thereby atoning for the sins of the world. According to a prophecy of Micah, the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But as for you, Bethlehem Efrata, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. One who existed before His birth, a human being who is the Bread of Life, who is able to nourish and sustain the entire world, would be born in Bet-Lechem, the House of Bread. The One who will rule the world from David’s throne, would be born in David’s city.
God prepared the world for His birth. The Lord had been actively involved in human history, getting everything ready for this world-changing event. At just the right time, in the fullness of times, God sent His Son into the world. God had prepared the Roman Empire for Messiah’s birth. At that time, the Roman Empire was ruling much of the world and was ready for new ideas about God. The Roman Empire had united much of the world. The Roman Empire was organized and had made extensive travel accessible. And God had prepared the Chosen People for Messiah’s birth. The Jewish nation was suffering and ready for Messiah’s birth.
A virgin miraculously conceived to bring forth His birth. The One born in Bethlehem was no ordinary child. He was a real human being, yes, the Seed of the Woman, but also the Mighty God; and Immanuel, God With Us; and Adonai Tzidkaynu, the Lord our Righteousness. The eternal Son of God needed and received a special birth – a virgin birth.
Heavenly signs accompanied His birth. The stars, which can serve as signs of special importance, were affected by His birth. A special star rose and shone at His birth, guiding wise men from the East to Him.
Angels appeared and made wonderful announcements about His birth. The mighty Gabriel announced to Mary: His name shall be called Yeshua, Salvation, 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 the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end. Marvelous! An angel appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary’s baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that she would give birth to a son, and Joseph was to give Him the name Yeshua, which means Salvation, because His mission was to save His people from their sins. Another angel announced to the shepherds near Bethlehem: Today in the city of David your Savior has been born, Messiah the Lord.
Righteous people were given visions, dreams, and prophetic utterances about His birth. Mary declared: I honor God and am thrilled about the Lord, who has saved me. Even though I am a nobody, He has chosen me to bring Israel’s Messiah into the world, and from now on every generation will know about me and my memory will be a blessing. God has done great things for me. In fact, He has always been good to those who honor Him, but He fights those who are high and mighty and feel they are doing fine without Him. He is on the side of those who realize they need Him. The nation of Israel serves God, and the coming of the Messiah means that God will fulfill all of His promises to the Jewish people. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was filled with the Spirit of God and expressed these thoughts about the birth of Messiah: The Lord God of Israel is to be praised because He has intervened in our history once again. He has given us a mighty source of power, the long-awaited Son of David. Messiah will ransom, save and liberate the Jewish people. God is doing what He has been telling the prophets He would do – send the Savior who will rescue us from all our enemies. The coming of the Messiah is not something we deserve, but an act of mercy to our ancestors and the fulfillment of God’s covenant to Abraham. Messiah will free us from all of our enemies so that we can serve God without being in a state of fear. And the Messiah will enable us to be holy and righteous. He is like the sunrise that shines light in the darkness. Simeon, a devout Jewish man, when he saw the Messiah, declared: Lord, I am Your servant and You told me that I wouldn’t die until I saw the Messiah with my own eyes. Now I can die in peace because this child is Your Yeshua – Your salvation, Your Messiah! He will bring the truth that saves human beings to the nations, and He will bring special honor to Your people Israel.
Angels came to Earth and celebrated His birth. A multitude of angels appeared outside Bethlehem, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, and on Earth peace to those on whom His favor rests!
Shepherds, who were from the common class, praised God at His birth. But also wealthy and wise men traveled hundreds of miles to worship Him at His birth. Seeing a special star rise, they were able to discern that an extraordinarily special King of the Chosen people was about to be born. After traveling a long distance, when they finally found Him, they worshiped Him and gave Him gifts of gold, fit for a king; nice-smelling frankincense, used to worship God; and myrrh, a valuable spice and perfume used to prepare the dead, later used for Messiah’s burial.
But not everyone responded positively to His birth. He was opposed at His birth. The leader of the fallen angels tried to kill Messiah at His birth. We are told in the book of Revelation what was happening behind the scene, in the invisible realm: The great red dragon, murderous and powerful, stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth, the Adversary might kill her child. But God thwarted that satanic plan. And the woman gave birth to a son who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. King Herod was the human agent behind that satanic attempt to murder the Son of God. When that special star that was connected to Messiah’s birth appeared, Herod – hearing from the wise men from the East that the Messiah had been born and finding out from the priests and Torah-teachers that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem – ordered his soldiers to massacre the male children in Bethlehem who were two years old and under to make sure the Messiah would be killed.
Messiah’s birth is one of the most important events in the history of the universe. But, it didn’t have the same meaning for everyone. For Mary, the birth of Yeshua meant great honor as well as great difficulties and great pain. For Joseph, the birth of Yeshua meant embarrassment, having to uproot his life and flee to another country. For John the Baptist, while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, the birth of Yeshua meant great happiness. When encountering the Messiah in Mary’s womb, John leaped for joy while in his mother’s womb. For Zechariah, the birth of Yeshua meant that the covenant promises of God were being fulfilled. It meant salvation for Israel, an outpouring of God’s tender mercy, freedom from fear, light for those in darkness. It meant holiness and righteousness and peace. For Simeon, the birth of Messiah meant that he could die in peace, for his eyes saw the Savior of the world that God promised him he would see. For Anna, the old prophetess, who never left the temple, the birth of the Messiah meant another opportunity to give thanks to God and to tell others that the Messiah had come, making salvation possible. To the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem, Yeshua’s birth meant seeing the heavenly host of angels praising God. It meant seeing the Messiah and praising God for all that they had seen and heard. To the wise men from the east, Yeshua’s birth meant successfully completing a long and difficult journey, encountering the very special King of the Jews, who was worthy of their worship.
That is what the birth of Messiah meant to some of the people who lived in the first century and were directly impacted by his birth. What does the birth of the Messiah mean to you? Something? Nothing? Everything? The Incarnation is not just an event of ancient history that happened 2,000 years ago and is not relevant now. It’s extremely relevant now. There are tremendous present and eternal consequences of the Incarnation. As a result of the Incarnation, the Son of God is our understanding and sympathetic High Priest, who can now and forever bring us closer to God, and bring God closer to us. As a result of the Incarnation, the Son of God has become our kinsman redeemer. As our kinsman redeemer, He and He alone is able to rescue us from the satanic slave-market of sin and death. As a result of the Incarnation, everlasting salvation, eternal redemption and limitless life are possible for those who transfer their loyalties to God the Father, Messiah the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a result of the Incarnation, the Son of God became a man and forever joined himself to humanity, thereby exalting humanity to the highest places! Yeshua’s Incarnation is real and it is relevant and it is amazing and can be life-altering. It will be world-changing, even universe-changing! Know that His Incarnation really happened. Understand what His Incarnation means, and what it can do for you and those you love. Tell a lost and dying world about His Incarnation. And pray the Son of God, by means of His Spirit, becomes more and more incarnate in you – this season and throughout 2014. And may it be so for you and those you love!