A Christmas Wish for Israel

Posted on December 23, 2020


By David Ettinger

What do you wish for this Christmas? A new car? A new home-entertainment unit? A trip to Hawaii? Or perhaps your Christmas wish is something closer to the heart, such as the entire family being in one place for the holidays.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and lover of the Jewish people (of which I am one), I have a Christmas wish of my own: salvation for the entire nation of Israel. I realize this is a lofty and far-flung wish. It may even be outright unrealistic; at least unrealistic at this moment of history.

Yet, in expressing such a Christmas wish, I follow the lead of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1). When Paul speaks of “Israel,” he is, of course, speaking of all the Jewish people scattered across the earth.

Today, the vast majority of the Jewish population takes no joy in Christmas outside of the fact that they get a day off from work. Aside from this, the Jewish people have no interest in Christmas.

To the greater part of Judaism, the Babe in a Manger is a myth, a quaint story Christians enjoy telling every December. There is no sense among world Jewry that this innocent Babe grew up to be Israel’s Messiah, the Atoner of their sins, and the Savior of their souls.

The Jewish people also have no idea that this Savior grieved over them, anguished at the fact that they would not accept Him. His anguish was not the self-seeking by-product of ego – that He had an insatiable need to be loved. Rather, the Messiah’s anguish resulted from the fact that He had come to die for His beloved Jewish brothers and sisters, but they wanted no part of Him.

Jesus lamented the fact that they would have to pay the terrible price for the rejection of their unacknowledged Messiah – eternal separation from God. Just how anguished was the Messiah? Consider the depth of His pain as He looked upon the city of Jerusalem and cried these words:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her young under her wings, and you were unwilling! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until you say, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 13:34-35).

Jesus could not have been any more tenderly forthright, compassionately loving, or utterly broken than at that moment. The Lord came to save His people from their sins. He even likened Himself to a mother hen who delicately gathers her helpless and defenseless chicks to herself for warmth, protection, and leading.

Jesus wanted to be the nurturing and protective Shepherd of “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). But alas, Israel said “No.” The Jewish people did not believe Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah, and hence they watched Him die, ignorant of the anguish of soul He suffered because of their rejection of Him and the unfathomable love He had for them.

For this reason, the Christmas season holds no joy for the Jewish people. They still cling to their rejection of Christ as the Messiah, and continue to look for another. They do not sing the great Christmas hymns, the greatest among them, “O Come, O Come Immanuel.” This hymn, more than any other, reflects the great desire of the Christian to see the salvation of Israel. The pining opening lines read as follows:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

There is a similarity of mood and passion in these four lines to that of Jesus’ passion for His people in summoning them to gather under His wings. In this case, it is the Christian who is calling to the Messiah to redeem His people. It is as if the Christian is saying, “Lord, have mercy on your people Israel. They are captive – enslaved – in spiritual bondage. They mourn in exile, far from Your light and salvation. They are crying out for You to appear to them and redeem them.”

However, the Christian fully realizes the Messiah has already come and has offered His salvation to Israel. The Christian now turns his attention to Israel and trumpets this good and wonderful news, as reflected in the final two lines of the uplifting first stanza:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The message is clear: “Rejoice, oh beloved Israel, for your Messiah has come. He has already come for those who have accepted Him, but shall come to you the moment you acknowledge Him.”

Captive Israel – the unsaved Jewish people – is desperately in need of being ransomed as she is held in spiritual slavery to sin. All Israel need do is turn to her Messiah, and He will shatter the chains that so terribly bind her.

The problem for the Jewish people at this point of history, as Paul accurately points out, is that “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day” (Romans 11:8). God has placed a temporary blindness upon Israel so that she cannot yet recognize Jesus Christ is her Messiah. The purpose for this is that “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

As the Lord does His miraculous work of salvation among the Gentiles, we as Christians should be praying for the hastening of the day when the veil that now covers the eyes of the Jewish people will be permanently lifted and they can with clarity look upon the face of their glorious and loving Messiah. We pray for the ransoming of Israel, and pray it happens soon. We pray for the day when “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

To my Jewish brothers and sisters, I pray that you come soon – and very soon – to the knowledge and acceptance of the One who longs to gather you under the warmth and security of His loving, protective, and saving wings!