Hanukkah and Christmas: Together at Week’s End
Hanukkah: Saturday evening begins the eight-day Hebrew celebration of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C., after God’s deliverance from a terrible pagan oppression in which the Jews had been severely persecuted and the Holy Place defiled (We will have more to say about Hanukkah in next week’s Update.)
Christmas: Saturday night will also usher in celebration round the world of the birth in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago of a Saviour from sin for all the children of Adam—Yeshua haMashiach—“Jesus the Anointed One.”
It is seldom that these two celebrations coincide in the way that they do this year—Christmas Eve the same evening as the lighting of the first candle for Hanukkah—and the last night of Hanukkah (eight days later) will coincide with New Year’s Eve! In fact, this year the entire month of December from the 1st through the 29th coincides exactly with the days of the 9th month in the Hebrew calendar, Kislev.
We pray a restful and joyous holiday season for each of you!
And, as with the days of this month’s calendar, may we, Jew and Gentile, walk in agreement (Amos 3:3 in Torah Portion below)–in sync, in perfect timing with what our Lord is doing on the earth during this season!
1. IN TEL AVIV AND JERUSALEM, A HEBREW REQUIEM OF REST, HOPE, JOY AND A FUTURE!
Last spring we wrote of what has become an annual event in Israel, the special presentation of Handel’s Messiah in the Hebrew language. We examined how the passages from Isaiah 53 which are at the heart of that great work, verses which so clearly depict the suffering of the Messiah as a sin-bearer for His people, are virtually unknown amongst Israelis. And we presented you with the complete texts of that Oratorio as an aid in interceding over the “seeds” of life-giving truth which had been sown through these performances.
We now present you with another powerful body of life-words, the texts from the great Requiem by Johannes Brahms. They were sung by the Liturgi-Kal Choir conducted by David Loden this week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem—but in Hebrew, rather than the original German!
“Requiem” means “rest”—and the word is usually associated with the Latin text of the Roman Catholic mass for the souls of the dead. Yet Brahms wrote a completely different sort of composition, one with a text drawn entirely from Scriptures (which the composer himself picked out from the translation in his native German) and arranged to some of the most exalted music of the 19th century.
And, unlike the Latin liturgy, which focusses on the dead, and fear of judgment, the Brahms Requiem focuses on comfort, instruction and hope for the living (“Blessed are they who mourn”); on the importance of realizing how transient we are and asking God to help us in numbering our days; of directing our hearts and souls towards the God of Life! Of realizing that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of the Lord (“Blessed are those who die in the LORD”). Of being comforted in bereavement, because there is coming a resurrection—at the sound of the “last shofar” when those living will be changed, the dead will be raised, and Death is swallowed up in Victory!
It is important to realize that most Jews are completely ignorant of the existence of most of these promises. Yet they are drawn by the artistic beauty of the wonderful composition. In years past, we have sat in a hall filled with Israelis pouring over their Hebrew translations as the Requiem is sung in its original German. But now, this week, as with Handel’s “Messiah” last spring, some were privileged to be actually hearing this testimony of Life being sung in their own language!
* That the “seeds” sown by the performances in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem this week would find fertile soil in the souls of Israelis, would germinate and bear fruit of revelation and faith in the One who has triumphed over death!
* Simply reading through this wonderful compilation of Scripture can be an inspiring and edifying experience for all of us. We print for you below the complete texts from the seven movements. As we read, may the Lord stir in our hearts a prayer that these truths would be revealed to Jews throughout Israel!
Texts for Brahms’ Requiem
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. They who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Matthew 5:4; Psalm 126:5-6)
All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withers and the flowers fall. Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, unto the coming of the LORD. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and waits patiently for it, until he receives autumn and spring rains. But the Word of the Lord endures forever. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (I Peter 1:24; James 5:7; I Peter 1:25; Isaiah 35:10)
Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days: that I may realize how transient I am. Look, You have made my days as a handbreadth; and my lifetime is as nothing in Your sight. Surely every man walks about as a shadow image; surely in vain they make an uproar. He heaps up riches, and doesn’t know who will gather them. And now LORD, for what do I wait? My hope is in You! The Souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them! (Psalm 39:4-7; Wisdom of Solomon 3:1)
How lovely are your dwelling places, O LORD of Hosts. My Soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the God of Life! How blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise! (Psalm 84:1,2,4)
And you now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man can take from you. You see how for a little while I labor and toil, yet have I found much rest! As one whom his mother comforts, so I shall comfort you. (John 16:22; Ecclesiasticus 51:27; Isaiah 66:13)
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O Death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?
You are worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created! (Hebrews 13:14; I Corinthians 15:51-52, 54-55; Revelation 4:11)
Blessed are the dead which die in the LORD from henceforth: Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them. (Revelation 14:13)
2. THE FORMER RAINS CONTINUE!
Thank you for your continued prayers for the Former Rains to fall abundantly over Israel! After the most parched dry season on record, followed by the devastating fires throughout the country three weeks ago, God is blessing Israel with showers. For two days last week, they were again loosed. Over 100 mm of rainfall were recorded in the Galilee and Golan Heights, over 80mm fell over the Sea of Galilee. There is snow on the top of Mount Herman.
After so many years of drought, farmers in the Galilee are cautiously optimistic; sprouts are beginning to pop out of the soil. We praise the Lord for His mercies. And believe it pleases Him for us to continue to call for the rains—to pray that the Sea of Galilee (Israel’s main water source) will fill up! To pray that Israel will see her need of dependence on Him as the One who is the source of all our life…a Spring of Living Water, the One who sends Showers of Blessing!
–Norma and Martin Sarvis