Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny

If Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny seem like funny topics to be looking at on Epiphany, it is because this is not really a study but a commentary. These three evoke a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. We have carried them into the Church of Jesus and their good and evil effects are one tare that the angels will get to burn when Jesus comes again.  

Easter Bunny

This springtime version of Santa Claus came to America with our German ancestors. The link below does a good job of looking at the topic. 

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/easter-ideas/a31226078/easter-bunny-origins-history/

Unlike Santa Claus, the egg-laying mammal only brings good things for children, no threat of coal. Naughty or nice is not part of the narrative, just treats after the long harsh period of Lent.

Santa Claus

Our jolly giver of presents is a mix of traditions. The club of his accounting system never seems to be used. Presents are always waiting to be opened if there is a tree present in your house. Inappropriate behavior still brings a wonderful gift, unless you do not get what you want and then Saint Nick is a rogue. Next year is the redeeming factor in this narrative of “you were good but not good enough”.  

Politicians

Putting politicians together with our magical elf and rabbit may not be fair to them. Knowledge, like politicians, has a good and evil side. Granted, that depends on your preference towards their political identity and the job they are doing. I hope that they have sought that position in order to help people and not themselves. Time will always reveal their usefulness and their motivation. 

Comparing and Contrasting These Three

  • No matter the present, all three depend on your pocketbook to fulfill the promise.
  • Santa Claus and politicians have a fear factor built into their jobs, while the Easter Bunny just deposits blessings that you have to hunt for and not step on.
  • Santa and the Bunny are mythical beings with magical powers. Politicians just think and act like they possess those qualities.
  • Santa and the Bunny were carried into the Church and used by it to promote some societal connections. It gave them religious imagery to justify their presence in the building, but they are not doctrine. 
  • Jesus and the Father are not types and shadows of Santa and the Bunny. Politicians are not God, no matter how they act.
  • Politicians frequently stay outside of the Church but want to use it and direct it to promote societal connections. 

Lessons from the Bible

Very early in Israel’s history, Moses organized governmental offices to help the people (they needed it and so do we). Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, suggested a sensible structure to relieve a lot of stress in governing the people. Exodus 18 covers that story. Jethro was quick to point out that Moses should seek the Lord’s approval on the plan; the Bible does not mention that Moses did that section of the proposal. So, there was a system of governing that centered on the Law and priest, and one that came with the Tribes and community structure. Jump to the Book of Judges and 1 Samuel and we see these roles blurring with God losing out as their leader.

Samuel is a prophet and a judge that was raised by Eli the priest. I think Samuel knew his boundaries, but the people kept blurring them, until they wanted a king, not a judge. By the leading of God, Samuel anoints two kings-Saul who used Law to promote his agenda, and David, who had a heart for God and the people. 

Fast forward through good kings and awful kings with several conquering nations thrown in and you arrive at the Roman occupation, High Priest, and the Sanhedrin, complete with Pharisees. Have we learned anything from all of that history? 

Jesus in His sermons from the two mounts addresses our relationships to civil and religious (corrupt) authorities-give to Caesar what belongs to him (Matthew 22:21) and they sit in Moses’ position so obey them just don’t to as they do (Matthew 23:2+3). Paul carries these thoughts into 1 Timothy 2:2, where he says to pray for those in authority.     

Concerns 

  • Who do we look to for our supply and justice? Lately, government has taken on its shoulders the burden of supplying our needs. They are bending society to redefine justice and what it looks like.
  • Woke IS NOT a Christian virtue! Bring that into the Church and confusing it with the teaching of Jesus is a HUGE mistake. Woke takes some of the verbiage of Christianity and bends it to suit an agenda that is not the Father’s plan for His children.
  • Paul admonishes Christians to be very careful about what you become involved with.
  • God’s love is built on righteousness. I have listened to politicians criticize Christians about God and His love and how we love our neighbors. They use a distorted view of love to make these judgements and we, as His Church, have not studied His love enough to voice His views correctly.
  • Blaming God and Jesus for bad happenings is not right, they gave. The god of this world is Satan, who causes troubles, sinful man, and crazy nature are not the acts of God. Satan can only steal, kill, and destroy; he is also an accomplished liar.
  • The early church in the Book of Acts is not socialism or communism. Unfortunately, I have heard a very popular pastor make that declaration. It did not sit well. The people brought things to help the poor because they wanted too. The Apostles, as leaders, did not want to manage it. Socialism and or Communism are leader mandates that will involve guns and tanks, either in starting it or maintaining their rule. Those two societal systems have taken something from the Bible and twisted it to exalt knowledge and man by creating a ruling class and a follower herd.  

How Then Should We…

This saying has been attributed to Saint Patrick-If an institution is in the way of spreading the Gospel of Jesus, that institution needs to change. I can imagine that he was talking about organized religion that has lost its way or a government that wants to stop the Good News.

The government will be on HIS shoulders; that is Jesus the Messiah. (Isaiah 9) Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny are useful. Maybe they are even needed in society, but the Church better wake up to the confusion they can create in children who grow up thinking politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny are part of the Kingdom of God.

Joshua of Nazareth or the Root of the Lord’s Salvation

Joshua of Nazareth (His Hebrew name) and its very loose translation-the root of the Lord’s salvation is setting the tone for this post and my feeble attempt at translating His names. 

This post is a look at who Jesus is by some of His names, titles, and attributes. (I used the Complete Jewish Bible, the Orthodox Jewish Bible, the Mounce Reverse Interlinear, and the NIV for the verses and the names.) 

Isaiah 7:14 This is the prophecy that says Jesus is Immanuel or God with us.

Matthew 1:23 Matthew repeats Isaiah in his introduction of the Christmas story.    

Exodus 34:6-7 is a good place to find out more about God the Father and Son. Moses wanted to know more, so God introduced Himself as He hid Moses in the rock’s cleft. His introduction was this: Hashem, Hashem El Rachum v’Channun or The Lord, the Lord the compassionate and gracious God. 

Isaiah 9:6 is a list of names or titles the Messiah was given as a present. They are:

  • Peleh (Wonderful) 
  • Yoetz (Counsellor)
  • El Gibbor (Mighty G-d) 
  • Avi Ad (Possessor of Eternity) or (Father of Eternity)-I really this one!
  • Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace)

Depending on what Hebrew source you use, the spellings may vary slightly. (Translators are amazing.) 

At first, I did not include this part of the verse. BUT. After watching several sermons about Christmas, I knew I had to add the first part of the verse. 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. (CJB) This just has so much in it! I will focus on the two “given”. We were given a gift, and so did Jesus, for becoming human. What you do with any gift is always your choice. Choose well and keep Him close throughout the year.   

Matthew 2:23 states that there is a prophecy that says Jesus will be called a Nazarene. Okay, don’t drive yourself crazy looking for that, because it hides in the roots of the word netzer, which means branch. (See The Root, The Branch, The Fruit – The Christmas Stor).  

The Father confirms His words by giving them to two or three witnesses. He did this with what He wanted His Son called. Both Mary and Joseph were told by Gabriel what to call the Baby-Jesus. Mary was told in Luke 1:31 and Joseph’s witness came in his dream in Matthew 2: 21. The third witness is when the Father told Gabriel. The footnote in my NIV in Matthew states, Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.

Joshua of Nazareth or the Root of the Lord’s salvation, enough said.

The last verse for this post is Revelation 19:11. Jesus is not a helpless baby, or a hard-working carpenter, or a meek rabbi teaching and healing thousands. In this verse, He is called Faithful (pistos) and True (alethinos) while sitting on a white horse leading His armies into battle. His eyes are blazing, a sword is coming out of His mouth, and His robes are dipped in blood.

The mystery and aura of God’s love are easy to hold as a baby in a manger, but the Rider on the white horse is also God’s love for those who choose to believe in HIM.   

Christmas Connection 2021-Charitoo

Mary has the angel Gabriel appeared before her and he says she is charitoo. Oh, your version of Luke 1:28 does not use that word, neither does mine. Most will say something like highly favored. Charitoo is a Greek word that is only used twice in the New Testament. Since it was used to describe Mary, it is our Christmas connection. The other time it is used is Ephesians 1:6, where Paul says that we are highly favored or surrounded with grace because we are in Jesus.

Our word shares the same root, in Greek, as charis and charisma. These words refer to grace and gifts throughout the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters.

But the Father surrounding us with His favor is not just a New Testament idea. Moses in Psalm 91 uses that thought all the way through his praise to God. (I believe Moses wrote Psalm 90 to 100 as he chronicled the journey from Egypt to Jordan River.) Picture this Psalm being sung as the Israelites are watching Egypt and their gods get wrecked.

David wrote Psalm 5:12 and uses the idea of surrounding us with His favor as with a shield. He received that favor when he was anointed to be king in his early teens.

Mary was given charitoo. She traveled to and from Elizabeth’s house by herself. Joseph and a very pregnant Mary bounced to Bethlehem and then ran for their lives after being given a fortune by the Wise Men and told to flee from Herod. Jesus even gave her a protector in her old age as He hung on the cross.

Whatever grace Mary was surrounded with, you have it as well. She got it to deliver Jesus into the world. We have because we are in Jesus in this world. That is a really great connection this Christmas.

Christmas Characters 2021-Simeon and Anna

Simeon and Anna are my last two named characters in and around the first coming of Jesus (Christmas). Their story would have been forty days after the birth when Mary and Joseph were dedicating Jesus (Exodus 13: 2-15). This post will also review the other named human characters-good and bad. 

Anna– Her story starts in Luke 2:36. She is an old woman who is 84 years old or older (translation here maybe unclear), who never left the Temple. (Where did she stay, who fed her, etc.? I have never seen a diagram of the Temple that had living quarters on the grounds.) Since she was there so much she must have heard or known of Zachariah’s encounter behind the curtain. As a descendent of Asher, her people were part of the Northern kingdom who were carried away by the Assyrians. There are many ways to explain why her family had returned, the important thing is she was there. 

Second Coming Shadow. Anna is someone who is focused on the Lord and is waiting for His return. This daughter of Abraham felt and followed the leading of the Spirit.  

Simeon-His story starts in Luke 2:25. As I read and reread 25-35 I realized how awesome Simeon is and how little he is talked about. This Old Testament believer in Yahweh has three references to the Holy Spirit working directly in his life. The Holy Spirit lead him to the Temple, He had revealed things to him, Simeon praised and prophesied. So, this righteous (tzaddik) and devout man should have many accolades attributed to him. He easily could be put with the 7,000 who never bowed a knee to Baal, he is qualified to have been in one of the schools of the prophets, and I would even put him into the order of Melchizedek as a non-Aaron priest of God, and a definite pattern for believers after the Day of Pentecost. He was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”, which is the term the rabbis used for the Messiah. The root word for consolation is also used by Jesus in John 15:26 when He said he would send the parakletos to us. Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. It is also translated as advocate or comforter.

            Second Coming Shadow. Simeon is a faith-filled son of Abraham and an example of what a born-again Jewish believer would be. Luke says the Spirit was “upon him” or epi, which puts him with some serious Old Testament figures. He knew the Word and believed that Yahweh could and did work in his day.

Zechariah-His story is in Luke 1. The father of John the Baptist makes his entrance into Scripture because he is offering incense behind the Curtain in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he is a priest. (This is a firm date or time in the Jewish calendar.) This would have no doubt been an honor to be selected, even though it did carry a fearful consequence-if he messed up they assumed he would be struck dead. That same curtain would be torn until Jesus died.

Gabriel, the angel, tells him great personal news about his family, which Zachariah doubts. Gabriel rebukes and levees a “wakeup call” to this son of Aaron-not being able to speak until the child is born. Gabriel is named, but not human, please see his post. 

            Second Coming Shadow. Zechariah, the priest, represents the doubting child of Abraham. He knew and lived the Torah, but a visit from an angel was not enough for him to not doubt. It took a miracle to move him into believing. 

Elizabeth-This daughter of Sarah (Luke 1) is amazing. She is a member of a cadre of strong women who had faith and became part of a miracle-Sarah (Genesis 21), Samson’s mother (Judges 13+14), Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2), the Shunammite (2 Kings 4:8 and 8:1), Rachel (Genesis 30), Tamar (Genesis 38), and Ruth. Their stories vary but all of them had babies after being barren or denied children. Many of these women belong to the family tree of Jesus (Matthew 1). 

In the Christmas story, Elizabeth is special because she finds out about her blessing (probably) in writing. Zachariah could not talk so I will guess writing was how he communicated for nine months. All of the other Christmas characters were spoken to or led by the Spirit into their role in the story. 

            Second Coming Shadow. No children were a very negative thing for the Hebrew woman and the nation of Israel. “Elizabeths” endure ridicule and shame, yet become a sign of God’s mercy because of the miracle they give birth to. The Father sets a table for them in front of their enemies (Psalm 23:5)   

Mary-For years I have tried to connect Mary, the tribe of Judah, with Aaron the priest, it did not really work. There is at least one verse that may reference this connection so Jesus could be king and priest. This year I did a study on David as a priest and Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood did not depend on Aaron because Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek.

Having studied Zachary’s story, it is possible that Mary was visited at Passover. That would make Jesus’ birth in the Christmas/Epiphany season.

Mary, however, does deserve to be recognized, she was handpicked by the Father. The woman in Luke 11:27 was corrected by Jesus in verse 28-blessed are those who hear and do the word. It is easy for me to believe Mary was a reference for Luke, Matthew, Mark, and John when they finally started writing the Gospels. Her life was filled with many good things but Simeon’s prophecy was good and she did have her heart pierced because of her firstborn son.     

            Second Coming Shadow. Mary represents the “yes Lord” group of believers. She was surrounded by charitoo. The word is also used in Ephesians 1:6 for grace being given to believers. 

Joseph– After learning about Jewish weddings when I did the post of the Ten Woke Virgins, this story looks a little different. In Jewish tradition, Joseph and Mary were legally bound because Joseph/his father would have already paid the bride’s price for Mary. They were in the yearlong waiting period when Joseph had his dream and Mary her visitation. Mary’s announcement would have affected her family also, the money became her father’s not to her. They usually gave it to the bride once the couple was together; remember how Leah and Rachel were upset at their father for spending their bride price. So, when Joseph thought about not marrying Mary, that meant a loss of money for him.

With all of that said, Father God not only picked Mary, He hand-picked Joseph as well. God knew Joseph would listen to the dreams for direction and guidance. In one respect Joseph had had more heavenly messages than Mary. I will always celebrate Mary because she knew the ridicule she would endure, but none of that was easy on Joseph either. 

            Second Coming Shadow. Joseph had “eyes to see and ears to hear” even when the message came in a dream. He knew and followed the Law but had an open heart and received the miraculous. There are testimonies of Muslims having dreams and knowing they must follow Jesus.

King Herod-Okay, the crazy, evil bad guy was named so he makes this post. His evil rage actually fulfilled the prophecy in Jeremiah. It is surprising that he only stopped with the little boys and not the whole village

Off-topic slightly-I will bet he knew about Zachariah and that something happened in the Temple. His non-Jewish heritage came through when he had to ask where the Messiah would be born, the common guy on the street could have answered that question. 

Second Coming Shadow. His list of bad things would be very long. So, just because they say they are for you does not mean a thing, what kind of fruit of the Spirit are they producing?

This is where the idea came from for this post.

Christmas Connection’s 2020

My wife found these two verses as we were looking into a place called Migdal Eder.  This Christmas connection adds support to the story we know and love.

Migdal Eder is a new place and term for us.  We heard about it in connection with the sheep and shepherds around Bethlehem.  In my post (Jeremiah – A Christmas Connection) we talked about Jeremiah 31:15 because of Rachel and her death and mourning.  Both of these things are part of the history of Bethlehem.  Migdal Eder was a tower that was used to guard the sheep that were used for the Temple.  This tower/cave/birthing pen/stable might have been where Jesus was born.  The reference in the Bible is Micah 4:8 and uses the term watchtower and stronghold and in 5:2 we have Bethlehem added as the location. There are many opinions and much uncertainty about Migdal Eder but I feel it has a place in the Story.   

During the study we saw Job 38:7 – “the morning stars sang together and all of the angels shouted for joy” (NIV).  This is part of the Lord’s answer to Job.  It also would fit very well into the Genesis narrative of the story of creation.  It describes the angel’s songfest for the shepherds on the first Christmas.  So, how does a creation idea work into Christmas?  Jesus’ arrival marked a new beginning for mankind and especially Israel. The Bible is the story of the children of God and our history.  First, with natural Israel and then with spiritual Israel.  The two stories need to be told together to get to all that the Lord God wants to show us.

Over the years, we have heard many facts and traditions about the swaddling clothes or strips of cloth that Mary put on Jesus and that the shepherds were to be looking for.  These two things are tied to Migdal Eder.    

They could have been at THAT stable for the lambs for the Temple.  There seems to be a few facts about the wrapping up of Temple lambs in strips of cloth from the worn-out priest robes.  Some people reference tour guides in Israel as their source of information and others quote an eighteenth-century book about a third-century oral tradition. Do your own study – the idea is nice but very few solid facts about wrapping up baby lambs.

Ezekiel 16:4 does talk about the practice of child care after birth.  The child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in strips of cloth.  This verse and story of how God treated Jerusalem can also be used as part of the Exodus story as the washing might be the trip through the Red Sea after they were delivered from Egypt. The rubbing with salt may be the forty years of wandering and the wrapping up could be the protection God gave Joshua and David.

These verses are good additions to my other Christmas Connection verses.