"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord." (Luke 2:10)
Christmas (or Christ's festival) by general usage is celebrated on December 25, and since its observance is not enjoined in the Scriptures, but is merely a voluntary commemoration of a great fact rather than of a particular date, we do well to celebrate it decorously at the usual time; notwithstanding the fact that we disagree with the date, and hold, according to the evidence, that our Lord was born about October 1, and that December 25, nine months previously, was probably the date of the annunciation (Luke 1:30,31).
Our confidence in Jesus that He was the sent of God to be the Redeemer, the Messiah, the deliverer of His people, rests not merely upon the testimony of the Apostles in the New Testament records, wonderful and convincing as these testimonies are. They gain ninetenths of their weight and importance from the fact that they evidence the fulfillment of promises, types and prophecies given by the Lord with more or less explicitness from time to time throughout the preceding 4,000 years. He who does not discern something, at least, of the Divine Plan of the Ages in connection with our Savior, His birth, His three and one-half years' ministry, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, His ascension, etc, fails to get the real strength of the Divine revelation, designed by the Lord to be the firm foundation for His people's confidence in Him and in all the glorious things which He has promised He would yet accomplish through this great Savior.
Note the original promise of the Savior shortly after sin had wounded our first parents and brought them under Divine sentence (Gen. 3:15). Note the promise made to Abraham respecting Messiah that he should be of his posterity (Gen. 22:18). Notice the same to Jacob (Gen. 28:14), and to David (2 Sam. 7:12-16). Through Isaiah, the prophet, His coming and His greatness are foretold (Isa. 9:6, 7; 11:1-9). Daniel, the prophet, also refers to the importance of His work of making an end of sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness, and thus sealing the visions and prophecies which the Lord had just given respecting Him and the favor to come through Him (Dan. 9:24). We recall also how He was typified in Isaac, who was not only the heir of the promises made to Abraham, but who was also in figure put to death and received again from the dead. We remember also the types and figures of the Mosaic arrangement, and how Moses himself was declared to be like unto the greater one to come after him.
Had the hopes of Israel been merely concoctions to deceive the people, we may be sure that the deceiver would have been careful to have marked out some remarkable line of parentage for the coming Messiah -free from blights, scandals, etc.; but this was not done. Instead, the weaknesses of the flesh amongst our Lord's progenitors are fearlessly noted. Judah, the son of Jacob, and the head of the tribe from which our Lord sprang, was not above reproach, and his general character was faithfully portrayed; his son Phares, through whom our Lord's lineage runs, was born of an unlawful union. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, a foreigner who became an Israelite indeed, was amongst our Lord's progenitors; so was Ruth, the Moabitess, another foreigner, adopted as an Israelite• The line even through David, is compromised by coming through Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah, the Hittite. The New Testament writers are similarly candid and make no hesitation in recording the genealogy. All of this is in full accord with the Scriptural presentation of the matter; namely, that our Lord's virtue, His sinlessness, His separateness from sinners, was not through the flesh, not through His mother, but through His Father, God.
According to the flesh, Jesus Christ took hold of the seed of Abraham, as the Apostle explains; but as we have already seen, through various circumstances He was indirectly related also to the outside world. All of this is interesting to us, but nothing to be compared to our still greater interest in the fact that our Lord Jesus, although born a Jew under the law, and redeeming those who were under the law, did more than this, in that His death as planned by the Father and accepted by Himself was a propitiation "for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2) He died as a ransom price for Adam and his sins, and thus purchased from condemnation not only Adam, but his entire posterity involved through his transgression; hence, as the Apostle points out, "He is able to save [deliver] unto the uttermost all who come unto God through him." (Heb. 7:25) Not only so, but our Lord's circumstances of birth and early experiences in comparative poverty as a working man, impress us with the thought that hoe is indeed able to sympathize with mankind in every station of life; having passed from the glory of the Father to the low condition of humanity and back again, He is surely able to appreciate and sympathize with all conditions and classes.
The narrative of our lesson is so simple as to require few comments; our chief interest centers in the message which our heavenly Father sent us through the angels at the time they announced the birth of Jesus; "Fear not" -the angel understood well that through sin and degradation a fearful apprehension comes over man when he finds himself in contact with spirit beings; he is apprehensive of certain further condemnation or punishment; his acquaintance with man in influence, authority and power, leads him to dread the still greater authority and power of the Almighty lest it should be injurious to him. Only the Christian having the eyes of his understanding opened to appreciate the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God, can have that perfect love toward the heavenly Father, which is built upon an intimate knowledge of His Word, and .__" which casteth out all fear. We are reminded of the prophet's words respecting the Lord's people of today. "Their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men," (Isa. 29:13) The Lord would have His people free from this fear, though not free from a proper reverence toward Him.
The message continues, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." How slow the Lord's people have been to believe this message and to accept the Savior at His full worth! How prone they seem to be to suppose first of all that He was to be a Savior merely for the Jews, or secondly, a Savior merely for a special elect class; or thirdly, a Savior only for those who under present darkness, ignorance, prejudice, superstition and devilish influences, manifest a special love for righteousness! But how broad is the statement -great joy for all people! Our faith is not broader than the positive declaration of the Scriptures, when we hold firmly that our God graciously has arranged that every member of our poor fallen race shall yet be blessed with a clear understanding not only of his own weaknesses and imperfection through the fall, but also by clear understanding of the great redemption price paid by the Savior, and a share in the glorious opportunities thus secured to return, if he will, back to full harmony with God and to full blessings and everlasting life.
The angels did not declare that our Lord came to bring universal and everlasting salvation to all people, but they do declare that the good message of joy, of privilege, love, hope, shall extend to all people. The explanation of this is that a Savior had been born, a deliverer of the weak, the helpless, the dying, able to succor to the utmost all who would come to the Father through Him; able to open the blind eyes and to unstop the deaf ears that all may come to an appreciation of the goodness of God shining toward them in the face of the Lord Jesus.
There is a special force or meaning in this word Savior -it signifies life-giver. The Syriac version is the one in which Savior is translated life-giver, and Syriac was, likely, the language spoken by Jesus and others of Palestine at that time. And is there not a special fitness or appropriateness in this name Life-giver? What had man lost and what would he wish to have back? The Scriptures answer that Adam lost life and came under the penalty, "Dying thou shalt die." He did not lose heaven, for he never possessed it. He lost earthly life, an Eden home, human perfection. And Jesus declared that He "came to seek and to recover that which was lost." (Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10)
No wonder after this message had been delivered, the Lord permitted an angel host to serenade the proclamation, and incidentally to prophesy also of the grand results yet to flow from the great work of redemption, which was then only beginning in the birth of the Redeemer I Properly the anthem begins with praise to Him that sitteth upon the throne, to Him Who devised the great and wonderful plan of redemption and who sent His Son, our willing Redeemer. Glory to Him in the highest -in the highest strain of heart and voice, with fullest appreciation of Him as a Savior!
Next came the consequences on earth; namely, peace -not such a peace as men might patch up between themselves and between nations and parties, and that under present conditions would be sure very soon to be scattered to the winds; but a peace with God, a peace which comes from a restoration to the race of the Divine good will. It was because Divine justice could not spare the guilty, that the sentence of death, the "curse" has borne down upon our race for now six thousand years. Under that Divine sentence of death the dying race has become impoverished, not only physically, but mentally and morally, and selfishness has become the rule, and in its wake have come all our selfish ambitions and pride and strife and vain-glory and money-love which have caused so much of the trouble that mankind has experienced.
But, now, glory to God in the highest! Because peace has been established upon a firm foundation -the lifting of the curse through the payment of our penalty by the Lord's own arrangement I As soon as the body of Christ has suffered with the Head, the Sin-offering will be complete, and peace between God and man will be established, will be renewed, and as a consequence the Redeemer shall take to Himself His great power and reign for the purpose of blessing and uplifting those whom He purchased with His own precious blood. In their interest it will be necessary that the great peace shall be introduced by the breaking into pieces of present institutions with the iron rod of the new Kingdom, as the vessel of a potter they shall be crushed as henceforth useless; that in their stead may come the grander and perfect institutions of the Lord's Kingdom. He will wound to heal, to bless, to bring in peace on the basis of everlasting righteousness; for ultimately He will destroy all those who, after being brought to a knowledge of the truth, will still love unrighteousness and tend to the corruption of the earth. He will destroy them, not in anger but in justice, in love, that an everlasting peace in full accord with that which is in heaven may prevail upon earth.
FOR OUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR
Few babes in all Judea or in all the world were born in a more humble place than Jesus. Joseph and Mary had gone to their native city, Bethlehem, for the registration, under the imperial edict. The little city was crowded with others of similar errand. And so it came that Jesus was born in a cattle stall, where Joseph and Mary had been compelled to lodge for the night. Ah! We cannot wonder that it is difficult for many to understand why our Heavenly Father sent forth His Son for our redemption under such ignominious conditions.
In order for Jesus to be able to give His life a redemption price for father Adam's life (and for the life of his race, forfeited by disobedience), it was necessary that He be perfect, sinless; as we read "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." (Heb. 7:26) And again, "A body hast thou prepared me," (Heb. 10:5) for the suffering of death.
It is not enough, then, that we recognize Jesus as good, well-intentioned in mind. We must see in Him human perfection, sufficient as sacrifice to offset the forfeited life of the first perfect man, Adam. And we must see also that He was begotten from above that the Holy spark of life in Him as the Babe was transferred life principle from a preexistent condition, mentioned by our Lord when He prayed, "Glorify thou me with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:15) St. Paul explains to us that "He was rich and for your sakes became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made rich." (2 Cor.8:9)
FEAR NOT -GOOD TIDINGS -GREAT JOY -ALL PEOPLE
The Message of the angels was surely an inspired one, fully in harmony with God's promise to Abraham -only an enlarged statement of the same -the same "all people" to be blessed -and it was still good tidings and it still meant great joy; but now, two thousand years later, the Message pointed out the very individual through whom the good tidings would have fulfillment -the Babe of Bethlehem.
The angelic announcement, “Fear Not,” is interesting. All humanity realizes that they are sinners and naturally have forebodings. They find it difficult to believe that God is really gracious and loving. The gods of the heathen nations are ferocious, unloving and unlovable. But the God of all grace, the Father of mercies is a God of Love, who delights to use His Divine Power for the blessing and uplifting of His erring children. Therefore, He was peculiar in sending the Message of "good tidings of great joy unto all people," as well as in sending His Only Begotten Son at great cost to be man's Redeemer -that He might be just and still be the justifier of those who believe (Rom. 3:26).
The Message had declared that a Savior had been born. He was to be the antitypical Moses, the antitypical Aaron, the antitypical Melchizedek, the antitypical David. In addition to the qualities pictured in these various typical characters, He was, also, the Son of the Highest. He was to be the Savior -the Deliverer -the Mediator of the New Covenant, so long looked for, hoped for and prayed for.
Hence, as we have seen, He was provided with perfect human life, that "he by the grace of God might taste death for every man." (Heb.2:9) And that by thus suffering, the Just for the unjust, the penalty of the sinner, He might become the purchaser or Redeemer of Adam and all his race, with a full right to restore to perfect life and all that was lost as many as would receive it at His hand -thankfully. Throughout His entire Messianic reign of a thousand years He will be the world's Life-Giver, raising the willing, and obedient up out of sin and death conditions to perfection and everlasting life and earthly, human blessings.
But our Lord also does a work for the Church, the "elect," Jesus’ Bride and joint heir in the Kingdom, and this blessing to the Church begins before the setting up of His Kingdom. The Church "were by nature children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2: 3), but they are not to be restored to what was lost. The offer to them is that they shall become copies of the Redeemer and lay down their lives, walking in His footsteps, and that He will make up for all their deficiencies and that thus the Father of Mercies will bring them, like their Lord to the Divine Nature, will assist them in making their "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10) to the heavenly state which God has promised them, for "if
We suffer with him; we shall also reign with him; if we die with him we shall also live with him." (2 Tim. 2:11, 12)
In Luke 2:14 we have a kind of Hallelujah chorus or angelic response to the Message of the angel already given. A heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." How grand! How inspiring! But we see not yet this glorious condition achieved. The proper glory to God is not yet rendered on earth as it is in heaven. Nor does peace yet wave her banner, even over so-called Christendom.
What is the matter? Ah, said the Apostle, that is a secret, a mystery, hidden from past ages and dispensations! The mystery is that God not only intends to have Jesus for His Anointed One, to rule and bless the world, but He has foreordained also a company of footstep followers to be with Him and share His work, and this entire Gospel Age has been devoted to the work of selecting this class, variously called the Body of Christ and the "espoused virgin," which eventually, at the second coming of the Lord, is to become "the bride," the Lamb's wife and joint-heir.
"Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) At the time of the birth of the Savior, God made some astrological sign of the momentous event, which the wise men of the East understood. Reverentially they followed the guiding star from their home in the East, possibly Persia. How the star led we are not informed, but apparently its leading discontinued when they reached Judea, and naturally they went to the palace of King Herod inquiring for "him that is born King of the Jews." (Matt. 2:2) The mistake was quite reasonable. It required some time for us to learn that Divine favors and blessings are not always to the rich and the great, but most often for "the poor of the world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom." (James 2:5) The filled, the rich, the satisfied are frequently less interested in the Savior than are the poor, because they do not realize so great need for Him and for the Millennial Kingdom of righteousness and blessing which He is to establish. For that matter, however, only the comparatively few were interested at our Lord's First Advent, as the Scriptures intimate that comparatively few will be longing for His Second Advent and establishment of His Kingdom.
Herod affected an interest with the wise men in their search, but merely that he might thwart the Divine purpose by destroying the Child, that thus the Kingdom of Israel might be preserved to his own family -as it was through his six successors who bore his name, Herod. As the announcement of Jesus the Babe troubled the great at that day, similarly, we may be sure, any announcement of Jesus as King of Glory to take over the dominion of the world, if corroborated, would cause consternation amongst the rulers of earth today -financial, political, etc. All have unfinished plans more or less selfish, and all instinctively realize that the inauguration of a reign of absolute righteousness would interfere with the business and schemes and trusts and concerns, grafting and trickery, which are getting such a hold upon the highest civilization of our day.
The prophecies were searched and it was learned that the humble city of Bethlehem would be the honored place for our Savior's birth. The crafty Herod feigned reverence and his desire to worship the Heaven appointed King, but only that he might subsequently destroy Him -as a little later he attempted to do in causing the slaughter of the innocents from two years old and under. But how foolish was his endeavor to thwart the Almighty!
The wise men~ who sought the Babe of Bethlehem with worship and gifts, symbolized perhaps the great fact that those are truly wise who ever since have sought the Divinely appointed King and who bring to Him the incense of their devotion, and as gifts all their talents and powers. Such lay their very lives at the Savior's feet, as St. Paul explains; "living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God." (Rom. 12:1)
The Babe that was born to be King of the Jews was to be the Savior, the Life-Giver of the world. He has not become the Life-Giver yet, nor the King. His great work is still future. It will be at His second presence that He will appear in His glory and become the King of Israel -on the spirit plane. Then, too, as the outworking of that glorious Empire which He will establish on earth, He will be the world's Life-Giver, its great physician, and all mankind will be blessed with the glorious opportunity of becoming "Israelites indeed." The Empire of Sin will be overthrown and the darkness, ignorance and superstition connected therewith will be dissolved in glorious light of truth and grace which then will overspread the world.
"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." (Isa.61: 1)
PLEASE PRAY WITH US
True Christians have always prayed for the Jewish People. However, many are not aware that the Jews also pray regularly for the believers of all nations. Forty percent of all Jewish prayers contain supplications for the Gentiles who fear God. Indeed, we have a great gratitude for the Jews who have been praying for us for centuries. In these critical days, therefore, it would be inexcusable if we, the Christians, did not pray regularly for Israel and also help her in our deeds.
PEOPLE ARE TIRING: It is outrageous that the American government ultimately demanded of Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with the arch murderer, Arafat. Therefore, please join us in prayer that the Lord may strengthen the leaders of Israel to withstand the enormous pressure to abandon the Divine Principles. This pressure is an almost compelling influence, so strong that people by themselves are not able to resist it. Many, who up until the elections fought so faithfully to rescue the Divine Values, are now tiring. Consequently, our backing is so critical at this time!
THE WILL IS GOOD: Prime Minister Netanyahu's first act upon becoming Prime Minister was to pray at the Western Wall. By this act he symbolized the intention of his government to govern according to God's Word. In his speech before the American Congress he stressed his belief in God and quoted Psalms 29. Following his return to Israel he proclaimed his intention that every child in Israel should become familiar with Biblical values.
BUT THE OPPOSING INFLUENCES ARE ENORMOUS: Ms. Ruth Matar wrote in an article that for people outside of Israel it is hard to understand why it is so difficult for the new government to make the promised reforms. The reasons for this difficulty are forces which / exert a stranglehold on government offices, the economy, law courts, the army, intelligence services, the media, etc. This influence deeply affects even the Israeli population and puts a heavy obstacle on the road to positive change.
The former Head of the Knesset, Dov Shelansky, warned in a radio interview of the serious danger that the new government would repeat the mistakes of the Begin Government. Menaham Begin made a great mistake which led to serious consequences. Upon assuming power in 1977 Begin left many Socialist and Atheist officials in their positions and even appointed Godless officials to high office. Begin believed that this was a noble gesture which would unite the camps. However, this was a fatal mistake with tragic consequences. The liberal behavior of Begin was not appreciated; many of those officials undermined his position from within, and consequently Begin resigned brokenhearted. It is unfortunate that he was influenced by the liberal spirit instead of hearing God's word which says, "Though grace is shown to the wicked, he will not learn righteousness, even in the land of uprightness he will go on doing evil, and will not regard the majesty of the Lord." (Isa. 26:10)
THE TASK OF BELIEVERS IN THE BIBLE AT THE END OF THE DAYS: An important part of the task for believers at the End of the Days is to help Israel in many folded ways. The Bible commands us very clearly to be intensively active for Israel. There are countless commandments to comfort and to exhort Israel, not to keep silent, but to cry aloud, to prepare the way for Israel; to mourn for Jerusalem and many more directives. We also have to assist in the regathering of the Jewish people. And we have to participate in the restoration of the land of Israel. Additionally, from Christ's followers are demanded even more than this. They have to lay down their lives for their Brethren - also the Jewish Brethren! They have to follow the footsteps of the Lord who carried out His mission tirelessly among the Jewish people. Under great privation He served the crowds of people who surrounded Him, helping and healing them at the expense of His own vitality. He sacrificed Himself every day, such that His life-forces were so depleted at the end of the three and a half years of ministry, that He was unable to carry His own cross. Therefore, let us pray that in the midst of Christianity may come a better understanding of our duty toward Israel, because so many are occupied with minor matters. The Lord exhorts us that many will fall asleep, and some even will miss Him. (Matt. 25)
THE LAST QUIET MONTHS BEFORE THE GREAT STORM: May these last months before the great storm become the best ones in our efforts to pay back some of that tremendous debt we owe to Israel. All the light and knowledge of God which we have has come to us through the people of Israel and from the Land of Israel. Let us ask salvation for Jerusalem! "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good." (Psa. 122:6-9)
The enemies of Israel are now very angry. They have begun an international propaganda campaign to force Israel back into the suicidal peace process. The prophets foresaw that Israel will challenge the nations and they would gather against Jerusalem. (Zech. 12 and 14) Please pray with us that this challenge may come according to God's will, and not by unfaithful behavior filled with concessions and compromises. This would rob Israel of her Divine protection. But faithful and obedient behavior toward God's will can only bring Israel God's help (Zech. 2:9; 9:15; 12:8; 14:3).
A part of the nation detaches from every tradition and eternal value of Judaism, and the present evil winds are scattering them into every wrong way… but there is another part in the nation who seeks a spiritual awakening. These are people who are talking together how to perform the commandments better, and how to love their neighbor more and how to better help him. They are praying for Messiah and Redemption. Please pray with us, that after the initial physical phase of the restoration of Israel, may this present phase of spiritual revival which has already begun, now continue in its realization, and bring about the recognition of the entire world that we are at the greatest turning point of human history in which Israel has a central task, and that it is a special nation chosen by God to be a light and a model in the fear of God for the rest of the world.
We send from Israel our warmest greetings to all of our co-watchmen on guard for the near Kingdom of Messiah!
Brothers Hermann and Joseph (ISRAEL)
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa 55:9) God has an appointed time for all His important events: "The Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry [to us it seems to tarry], wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Hab. 2:2, 3)
LETTER OF GENERAL INTEREST
Our beloved Sister Emily: Loving greetings in the Name of our Lord!
Thank you for your letters of August 8 and 28. They are a spiritual refreshment and comfort to us. We are blessed to have a sister like you who cares so much with love in spirit and practice. We are glad you appreciated our letter (Brother Joseph wrote by hand) and enclosures. We appreciate the papers giving us Present Truth without compromise, also giving the news of the Lord's work in Israel.
We do not protégé Benjamin Netanyahu but he was in a dangerous situation before the election. We gave him support because we believed he was the most qualified for leadership in Israel. We do not expect him to be able to solve all the problems. If he succeeds, as you say, to bring back the faith in God to Israel then he will be able to solve the other problems easily.
We began to send the Overland Monthly to important people who had received from us the Pastor Russell book by David Horowitz. We have been asked for help to supply a record for a dissertation by the Haifa University on the topics: "Jesus the follower of Moses," and "Jesus the Sacrifice." First of all we showed the wonderful Scriptural passages about the Messiah, then we added excerpts from the Reprints, Tabernacle Shadows and two books in Hebrew (which was translated by Sister E. Lenfast); The Divine Plan of the Ages in Brief, and the book, God through Isaiah Speaks to Israel.
We have an additional booklet translated into Hebrew by Hugo Karlen. He was appointed by Pastor Russell to do the Lord's work in Sweden. All this together will give a wonderful and complete witness of the Messiah.
We have received an announcement that the vice-minister of education, Moshe Peled, will come tomorrow to visit Emek ha Shalom. The last time when many visitors came they expressed their admiration for Brother Hermann still being able to give spiritual talks as well as doing hard labor every day. It is for them like a wonder. So you are not alone in saying Brother Hermann is a wonder to all of you.
This morning I spoke to an official from the Jewish National Fund. He has known us for 20 years. He said that Hermann is much loved by the Lord because the Lord gives him such forceful and prophetic spirit and much wisdom. He believes that Hermann is wiser than most famous Rabbis of the country.
However, I see every evening that Hermann is doing with his last forces. Both of us will not be able to sustain without your help and the help of others. Thank you very much for your prayers. We pray daily for you and pray we will be able to perform fully the goal that Brother Russell put in front of us: "They love each other from the new standpoint of intention and will be in harmony with God. Their friendship for one another grows increasingly as they perceive the energy in fighting the good fight of faith against evil influences of the world, the flesh and the Adversary."
Please greet heartily Brother and Sister Williams, Sister Delta Clinard and Brothers Roy Ekroth and Ralph Mehl. We remain profoundly grateful for all the help that has been given us, and we greet all with brotherly love from Israel.
Your brethren, Hermann and Joseph (ISRAEL)