Growing up in Israel in the seventies and eighties, Christmas was a far-off Christian holiday that I had no idea about other than the images of the beautiful lights, Christmas trees and decorations we saw in pictures and movies from America and Europe. Today, many Israelis visit Arab Christian villages and neighborhoods during the Christmas season to enjoy the lights and the Christmas cheer. But, for the most part, no one would know it is Christmas in Israel on December 25th—it’s just like any other day.
Experiencing Christmas for the First Time
In my early twenties, after I came to faith in Yeshua, my wife and I moved to the United States. It was then that I had my first taste of this Christmas holiday that I as a Jew had never personally seen or celebrated. I have to say that the beautiful lights and decorations, the holiday parties and get-togethers made that dark and cold time of the year truly joyful and beautiful —which is saying a lot for me as an Israeli who loves sunshine and has a hard time with the cold. It was special being together with fellow believers during Christmas church services worshiping the “King of Israel”, and the words of many Christmas songs celebrating the birth of the Jewish Messiah in my homeland, Israel, touched me deeply.
Little Baby Jesus
Of course, beyond the secular consumerism and materialism that infiltrates much of the Christmas season in the US—there was one thing about the holiday that felt a little strange to me: the widespread Christmas focus on Yeshua as a baby. I was already a believer, but I had not spent time thinking of Him as a baby. Other than His birth, the New Testament offers no information about Yeshua’s infancy or childhood before his 12th year. However, as I thought more about this “baby Jesus” focus during Christmas, I realized that Isaiah the prophet spoke of the child Messiah and described Him in terms that we rarely, if at all, hear during Christmas. The terms Isaiah uses to describe this special Child are a majestic description of His mighty and awesome character and calling.
What Child is This?
Isaiah 9:6 describes the Child who will carry the government on His shoulders: God’s juxtaposing the smallness and weakness of a human child with the weight of this mighty calling on His shoulders highlights the incomprehensible plan of salvation in such an astounding way.
Next come the heavy titles this Child carries: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God , Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. If we focus on each title, it reveals who Yeshua is, His calling and identity. Usually knowledge of Hebrew does not give any “hands up” in understanding the Bible—the Spirit of God ensured that there are accurate and true translations in every language. There are times, however, where nuances in the Hebrew open up different levels of meaning and connections which are otherwise lost in translation.
Pele Yoetz (Wonderful Counselor) – if we allow Yeshua to be our personal counselor, He will do wonders in our lives! “Pele” is the Hebrew word for “wonder”, and Messiah’s name as “Wonderful” recalls a scene in the Torah where the “Man God” in the form of the Angel of YHVH describes Himself to the father of Samson in Judges 13:18, saying: “My name is wonderful (pelee)”.
El Geebor (Mighty God) – this title makes absolutely clear that the Messiah who is born a human child is the Mighty God himself!
Avi Ad (Everlasting Father, or…?) – this title can be a little confusing because Yeshua is God the Son, but He is not God the Father. So, what does this mean? Here, understanding the Hebrew can be helpful; looking at the Hebrew grammar, “Avi Ad’ can just as easily be translated as “Father of Eternity” which makes much more sense: it is only through Yeshua that we have eternal life. He is the Father of our eternal life.
Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace) – this Child is the bringer of peace: first in our hearts in this age, and, in the Messianic age, He will be the one who brings global peace—a great task indeed!
To all of those who are celebrating the birth of our Messiah this Christmas season, I pray that the deep and awesome revelation of the Child who is Mighty God fills yours hearts with wonder and light!