When people think about Jewish holidays, they think of Passover and Hanukkah. But few people see Christmas as a Jewish holiday. Yet, it’s really the most important of all the Jewish holidays. Why?
Christmas is the day when most of the world celebrates the birth of the Messiah of Israel who is the Savior of the world. The prophet Isaiah (9:2-6) wrote of a terrible time in Israel that would be transformed into a wonderful season when something wonder-full happened:
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the land that lies in the shadow of death, light has dawned. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on His shoulders, and He will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace]”. (CJB)
This Messianic prophecy, spoken by the Jewish prophet, initially to the Jewish people about the Jewish Messiah, for giving the Jewish nation hope in horrible times. Yet, God’s plan was always for the Jewish people to share their revelation about Him with the nations, the gentiles, who readily received it once it was proclaimed to them by the Jewish apostles.
Even Handel in his magnificent oratorio, The Messiah, recognized the importance of this prophecy. This masterful composer included this prediction of the coming Messiah, and many more, in his musical message about the birth of the Messiah, Yeshua.
This great piece of music is performed at Christmas-time in over half the major cities of the USA and many more around the world. Thus, people have listened to the prophecies of Messiah’s coming, the description of His sacrifice for humanity, and finally, His resurrection and return, through the lyrics of this composer, taken from the Scriptures—the Gospel given through Jews presented by the German, George Fredrich Handel.
Clearly, Christmas, the birth of the Messiah, is a Jewish holiday that Christians share. And, there are even more musical connections. What do all these pieces of music have in common besides being favorite Christmas songs:
- “Do You Hear What I Hear”
- “Silver Bells”
- “The Christmas Song”
- “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
- “Winter Wonderland”
- “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
- “White Christmas”
They were all written by Jewish immigrants who had escaped the persecution in Russia and come to the USA for better lives. Not able to take most jobs, they took to songwriting, something they were good at and could make a living doing.
Before a Jewish immigrant songwriter, Isadore Beilin, whom you may know as Irving Berlin, wrote “White Christmas,” there wasn’t much interest in writing Christmas songs. But this classic song broke all sales records in 1942, giving rise to hundreds of songs written about the birth of the Jewish Messiah.
So, since much of the music that’s part of Christmas was written by Jews, that’s another reason I say that Christmas is a Jewish holiday that both Christians and Jews can enjoy.
Yet, even with these connections, the vast majority of Jewish people reject the idea that Christmas is a Jewish holiday. It celebrates the birth of someone they don’t believe to be the Messiah. Moreover, in Eastern Europe / Russia a century ago, Christmas was the time when some in the Church persecuted Jews as “Christ-killers,” ironically during the season of “good will to men” as the birth of the “prince of peace” is celebrated. So, this group of Jews stays away from any celebration of Christmas. To them, Christmas is far from a Jewish holiday.
On the other hand, German and Austrian Jews were widely appreciated so they assimilated well into the Christian culture in these countries. Many of them, in order to fit in, put up their own Christmas trees, without considering the religious significance of Yeshua as Messiah. For them, it was only a cultural holiday, as it is for many in the world today. They embraced Christmas as a national holiday and enjoyed the season immensely, not yet seeing it as a Jewish holiday.
As a Jew, growing up in Maryland, participating in high school holiday programs, although I always loved singing the beautiful Christmas songs, I was sad that they weren’t for me, because I too didn’t believe that this Jesus was the Messiah. I thought He was just “not for us Jews.” But, in 1973, all that changed and I embraced Him as the one sent to save the Jewish people, and billions of gentiles, as well, from their sins. I began to see Christmas as a Jewish holiday. And this is happening among Jewish people all over the world today in large numbers.
I ask you to pray that my people, who hear the beautiful songs of Christmas, will open their hearts to realize that they can celebrate the birth of Messiah with the billions of Christians who already do. Then, Christmas will truly become a Jewish holiday, shared with many Christians.
Just imagine the joy when Jews and Gentiles gather to worship the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, in the Last Days. We Messianic Jews see that happening now.
This post was written by Rabbi Barry Rubin © of Messianic Resources
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