by Jonathan Settel
These are the days when we try to blend in; to blend each other, our thoughts, our feelings. These are the days when our individuality is frowned upon and our differences put in the background. What is accented, what is promoted is a sameness that obscures the uniqueness of each of us. Growing up in a “Christian” country as a traditional Jewish boy/man, I remember the Chanukah bushes that would replace the Christmas trees or the Christmas trees which would have either a Mogan David or a bagel on top, all in the name of blending. I remember wishing I could celebrate Christmas like my friends. The trees, the lights, the ornaments, the ambiance of two-dimensional joy (or was it one-dimensional, can’t really remember). The presents in the morning, the eggnog. I recall asking myself why does Christmas have to fall at the same time Chanukah does. These were difficult times for a young Jewish boy who was at once proud of who he was and at the same time fearful of that identity.
We rush into today. I have become a “new creature in Messiah Yeshua.” “All things have passed away” and I have “become new.” Yet the remnant of my authentic identify comes flooding back each and every year. It does not seem to matter that I know that Yeshua was born during Sukkot and that Chanukah is a festival, a feast or dedication of lights and that Yeshua is this Light. It does not seem to matter that I know that Chanukah is the celebration of the battle between Hellenism and godliness; that I remember the Maccabees, the Jews that stood for their faith though the Assyrian kings tried to force us into submission, paganism and blending in. To be different was an abomination to paganism. To be unique insulted the godless nature. However, to be the same was a soothing balm of Gilead to the fornicators and people of the world.
Oh, I could rationalize and blend the two to be one. Let’s look at the reality of what we do celebrate when we celebrate the birth of Messiah. Every time we are born again, we celebrate His birth in us. Every time we have a revelation of the Holy Spirit, we admit to and invite in the reality of the birth of Messiah. It is a powerful and intense experience and cannot be compared with anything else.
Does Chanukah stand by itself, alone, with its own identity? Absolutely! We see Chanukah every day of our lives in this modern society. We also see it in the New Testament in the Book of John, Chapter 10, Verse 22, we see Yeshua Himself participated in this Biblical reality. The Hellenists are still alive, demanding our submission and desire to be a part of them. The world would have us blend in, not to cause waves, to enjoy the demonic screams of Halloween, the sexual innuendoes of modern television, and the violence fed into our children. Yes, the hellenists are alive and well, demanding the people of God become like them.
Who are these people of God? Some say they are not the Jews because the Jews have not accepted Messiah. They say the people of God are only those who have accepted Yeshua as Lord. For sure, these people who have invited the King of Kings and Prince of Peace into their hearts are a part of that group called the People of God. But as we know scripture tells us that we do not choose Him, but it is He who chooses us; and if He has chosen us to be a part of Him, are we not also the People of God? Our admission of the presence of God, either for or against, has nothing to do with His reality. He is, whether we believe in Him or not, whether we live for Him or not, whether we have separated ourselves from the pagan hellenists of today or not. He is, He exists, He is real, and He IS-RAEL.
The Jewish nation has been chosen by God to be His representatives on earth. Are we? If not, when will we become so and how will we become His representatives? Is it only after we have accepted Him, after we have realized Him, or are we to look at the people of Israel, the people of the Jewish nation as the People of God? Or, are we not to look at the people of Israel, the people of the Jewish nation as the People of God? The key here is whose eyes are we looking through. Are we looking through the eyes of the Messianic Jewish movement, the eyes of the Christian church, the eyes of the pagan man, or the eyes of God?
I am a simple person with a desire to be loved and accepted. It is most difficult for me to blend in, to be one with a group of people that I feel I reside with as a visitor. Every now and then I find myself looking at my passport and trying to find that stamp - the stamp that would say “APPROVED.” Sometimes when I go into a church, I feel my pockets to make sure my passport is with me, and even in some Messianic congregations I have to check my dictionary to make sure my etymological utterances are of the same vernacular as those who surround me. I want to blend. I want to be liked. I don’t want to stand out. Yet “to whom much is given, much is required.” The People of God have been chosen by God, not by men. They need to be recognized by men if they are to fulfill their function properly. It is our job at this season of celebration, the season of lights, the season of family gatherings, to help those who have not yet recognized the identity of the “People of God” to do so. It is also our job to reveal to those who have an incomplete understanding of these words that it is not their acceptance of God that completes them, but God’s acceptance of them. We labor to get people saved; yet we know that it is only the Holy Spirit that can save us. We labor to show people the love of Messiah when our own lives don’t reflect that love toward each other. We labor in the field that the Lord has given to us laying down the seeds of Lishon Ra. It is time to lay down the hoe and sickle of the farming fields, the gathering places of sameness, to maintain our uniqueness, our individuality, to be Believers in the one and only God and to reflect that belief not as blenders, but as individuals who are uniquely unified with the entire Body of Messiah, the entire People of God.