There is a lot of talk this time of year about the paganism in the Christian faith and the celebration of Christmas. So much so that it comes out sounding hateful and hurtful, snarling, biting, and mean. As followers of the Master, should we be acting this way?
Last week’s Torah portion ignited an explosion of light in my head. (Yes, I’m okay, but will never look at this portion in the same ‘light’ again!)
The portion is in Genesis 41-44. Before arriving there, we find a Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt, falsely condemned for attacking Potiphar’s wife, and being kept in ‘the House of the Slaughterer’. Though Joseph is once more given a position of honor, he is in a place of execution. In this place he gave two fellow inmates the interpretation of their dreams – one would lose his head, the other restored to his position as pharaoh’s cupbearer.
Now here we are, two years later and Pharaoh has two dreams that none of his magicians can interpret. Or is it possible that none of them want to? After all, they must remember what happened to the baker and the cupbearer.
Either way the interpretation was not forthcoming, opening the door of opportunity for Joseph. And Joseph walked through it with chutzpah. Think about it: here he was, a condemned prisoner brought before a powerful pharaoh about to interpret his dreams, when his own dreams had not come to fruition. You know, the ones where his brothers and mother and father would bow down to him?
Yet Joseph was his father’s son. Jacob, who tenaciously sought the blessing and the covenant, had to have poured that tenacity into his favored son. And here he was, standing before pharaoh, not only interpreting his dreams but also telling him what he should do about them!
And pharaoh was pleased with the advice and put Joseph in charge of everything. He clothed him like an Egyptian, lauded him with honors, and even gave him an Egyptian wife. Anyone looking at him and listening to him would think Joseph was an Egyptian.
It was during this discussion that one of my fellow students asked why Yeshua had to go down to Egypt. She clarified that it was God’s purpose and will, but wondered if it was necessary.
There is a saying in the Talmud – the deeds of the forefathers are portents for the sons. Abraham went down into Egypt. Joseph went down into Egypt.
It was in Egypt that Joseph ended up in Egyptian garb, speaking a different language. When his brothers came to seek relief from the famine, they didn’t recognize him.
Yeshua went down into Egypt.
Christianity, in our split from Judaism, went down into Egypt. We ended up dressed in strange garb. We no longer look and act like our Jewish brother. And we’ve been here so long that not only doesn’t our brother recognize us, we don’t recognize our own faith!
Yet just as Joseph took off all that garb, speaking to his brothers in Hebrew, the Spirit is helping us remove all our garb and revealing the root of our faith.
More and more, Christians are coming to realize that their Savior is the Jewish Messiah. We are flocking to Judaica shops. We seek to learn from sites like Hebrew4Christians and First Fruits of Zion. We search for Messianic congregations in an effort to rediscover the foundation of our faith. And we see Zechariah’s words coming true as we grab onto the Jews, wanting to follow their God, longing to remove paganism from our lives.
Rather than blasting our Christian brothers and sisters for continuing to look and act like Egyptians, shouldn’t we be rejoicing in the truth God has revealed to us? And in this season of lights, praying that this same light of truth that dawned on us would illuminate their hearts and minds?
Isn’t that the heart of our Messiah?