Away In A Manger by James Merritt

"AWAY IN A MANGER"
DR. 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?"1

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
"RESEARCH ...


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