Away In A Manger by James Merritt

Away In A Manger
James Merritt
Luke 2:1-7

INTRODUCTION

1. I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU THREE STORIES THAT TAKE PLACE IN THREE DIFFERENT NATIONS THAT ILLUSTRATE A CENTRAL TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS. THE HEADLINE READ ''JAPAN GOES WILD FOR HO-HO HOLIDAY.'' A NATION, MADE UP ALMOST ENTIRELY OF SHINTO AND BUDDHIST BELIEVERS, HAS TAKEN TO CELEBRATING ''KURISUMASU'' WITH THE HEARTIEST OF HO-HO-HOS. THE SEASON IS MARKED BY EXTRAVAGANT GIFT-GIVING, WITH SHOPPERS LINED UP FOR BLOCKS OUTSIDE OF EXPENSIVE DEPARTMENT STORES.

RED-GARBED CHOIRS GIVE ENTHUSIASTIC IF UNCERTAIN VOICE TO ''HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING'' AND OTHER CHRISTMAS CAROLS, IN DOWNTOWN TOKYO. IN RESIDENTIAL SECTIONS NEARLY EVERY DOORWAY BEARS A CHRISTMAS WREATH OR A SMILING SANTA CLAUS.

YET, NO ONE SEEMS TO HAVE A CLUE WHY CHRISTMAS IS CELEBRATED AT ALL IN A NATION WHERE CHRISTIANS ACCOUNT FOR LESS THAN ONE PERCENT OF THE POPULATION. NEVERTHELESS, ONLY NEW YEAR'S IS AS POPULAR A HOLIDAY AMONG JAPANESE AS CHRISTMAS.

A TELLING COMMENT IS MADE BY HATSUKO YAMAUCHI, A SEVENTY-FIVE YEAR OLD HOMEMAKER WHO HAS HAPPILY CELEBRATED CHRISTMAS FOR SEVERAL DECADES. HE SAID, ''I DO NOT KNOW WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT. MY DAUGHTERS HEARD ABOUT IT AND WANTED US TO CELEBRATE, SO WE PUT A CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE LIVING ROOM, A FLOWER POT SHAPED LIKE SANTA IN THE ENTRYWAY, AND HAVE A NICE TIME. ISN'T THAT WHAT CHRISTMAS SHOULD BE-HAVING A WARM TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY?''

2. NOW THE NEXT STORY COMES FROM THE NATION OF ISRAEL. ON DECEMBER 25, 1990, CHRISTMAS DAY, ISRAEL PASSED A LAW STATING THAT NO MESSIANIC JEW COULD IMMIGRATE TO ISRAEL AND BECOME A LEGALIZED CITIZEN. MESSIANIC JEWS REST ON THE SABBATH, THEY KEEP KOSHER, THEY FAST ON YOM KIPPUR, AND YET THEY HAVE BEEN DECLARED PERSONA NON GRATA IN THE NATION THEY WOULD CALL THEIR OWN.

3. NOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE DISPUTE IS THE LAW OF RETURN, WHICH GUARANTEES CITIZENSHIP TO ALL THE WORLD'S JEWS. THIS LAW DEFINES A JEW AS SOMEONE BORN TO A JEWISH MOTHER, OR SOMEONE WHO HAS CONVERTED TO JUDAISM.

4. BUT MESSIANIC JEWS ARE NOT WELCOME FOR ONE REASON-THEY WORSHIP JESUS CHRIST. THEY BELIEVE THAT CHRIST, WHO THEY CALL BY THE HEBREW NAME YESHUA, WAS THE JEWISH MESSIAH AND THAT HE WILL COME AGAIN. 5. HOW DID ISRAEL RESPOND? THE SUPREME COURT RULED THAT BELIEF IN JESUS AS THE MESSIAH IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE JEWISH FAITH, AND THEREFORE WITH ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP. NOW THE STRANGE THING IS, THE LAW OF RETURN DOES NOT REQUIRE THAT JEWS SEEKING ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP PRACTICE JUDAISM, OR EVEN BELIEVE IN GOD. IN OTHER WORDS, YOU CAN BE AN ATHEIST, AN AGNOSTIC, EVEN HOLD TO SOME TYPE OF NEW AGE THINKING, AND BE A JEWISH CITIZEN, BUT NOT IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS.2

6. FINALLY, THIS STORY COMES FROM AMERICA. IN 1991 IN DICKSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, A JUNIOR HIGH ENGLISH TEACHER, NAMED DANA RAMSEY, TOLD HER NINTH GRADE CLASS THEY COULD PICK ANY ''RESEARCHABLE'' TOPIC ON WHICH TO WRITE A TERM PAPER.

7. BRITTNEY SETTLE DECIDED TO WRITE HER RESEARCH PAPER ON JESUS CHRI ...


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