Sweet Israeli Christmas
Oh come, oh come Emmuel... and ranson captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appear! Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
He did come in the flesh and He will come again! Praise the Lord! Let's celebrate!
This was our second Christmas in Israel, and I am please to say that it was a sweet one. Christmas is an unusual event and holiday season to experience in Israel, where it is not a main stream celebration. Christmas music on the radio, lights on the trees down Center St in Goldsboro, NC, party after party after party... these cultural expressions simply do not exist. Even amongst believers in the land, Christmas is approached in diverse ways. The simple reasoning behind this is that most people did not grow up celebrating with their families, because they are Jewish! Those who are not Jewish are from nations around the world, which brings a variety of traditions and expectations.
Last December, being away from family caused a great deal of homesickness. I was more prepared this year, but I still can't always anticipate what I will miss until I realize its not here. The surprise point of "missing" this year was a corporate worship experience on Christmas Eve. Only later did I find out about Carroll services that take place in various parts of the city. Next time we are in Israel for Christmas, we will join in. Its taking some time for us to learn how to celebrate as a family, but we're getting there!
Since we were void of a tree last year, due to lack of availability, when my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, without question I said, "A Christmas Tree!" She graciously sent a four foot tree in the mail. It arrived during Hanukkah, which I found a bit humorous.
We decorated it with this lovely set of salt dough ornaments that Aviel and I made together.
Here they are on our modest but sweet little tree.
It was an accident that our tree was covered in Magan David! The other stars were left overs from the Holocaust Survivors' Party. I do enjoy a tree full of stars, though. It causes me to ponder the promise God made Abraham, that his decedents would number the stars in the sky. One of these stars would one day become the Messiah of His people, mysteriously bringing the Gentile nations into this covenant through his shed blood.
I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; Genesis 26:4
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. Ephesians 2:13-15
On Christmas Eve, Aviel enjoyed watching Charlie Brown Christmas, and Rudolph while Devin and I cleaned and prepared our home to recieve guests the next day. We also filled our home with lovely Christmas music. I am always amazed by how worshipful so many Christmas songs can be, as they proclaim the coming of the King.
Christmas morning, we first opened gifts as a family, then shared my family's traditional Christmas breakfast, turkey sausage and egg casserole, homemade yeast cinnamon buns, and grits. In honor of Christmas being a holiday of the nations, we invested in real pork bacon that we found at Ewoo Butcher on Shamai St. We hosted Eric and Joan, dear friends from our Kehilah (congregation), and had a delightful time in fellowship with them, learning about their family traditions.
Amongst a few other delicious goodies, Joan brought a Christmas cookie, which she called Grandmother Fingers. She explained that her German Jewish grandmother, while living in Germany, made this cookie every Christmas to give to her Christian neighbors. Her mother kept this tradition in America, as did Joan while living in Alaska. Now her daughter, Sarah (who also happened to be my birth doula), is making the same cookies with her daughter, Ana, in San Francisco (we are sad that they moved). Eric shared stories of Christmas in Alaska, eating caribou, working on fishing boats, and taking their daughters ice skating on a frozen lake. As a man of the nations -Aleut -Eric enjoyed the bacon, as well as talking baseball, and playing with Aviel.
We were beyond blessed to celebrate with Joan and Eric and will always treasure memories of that morning.
After a family nap, we then headed to our friend Susy's house for Christmas dinner. Aviel made drawings for the guests while we waited to eat. Our drawing secession began with just Aviel and me, but before we knew it, others had joined in, drawing dinosaurs, boats... all sorts of art work emerged. And not only artwork, but conversation and a joyful spirit filled the room. Susy served a veal pot roast and rice. Our table was quite international, so we also had a variety of foods from around the world. My contribution upon Susy's special request: sweet potato casserole. Israeli's love that stuff.
Upon arriving home, we skyped with our families in North Carolina and Ohio, then crashed! It was a big, joyful day.
I've heard it said that friends are the family you chose for yourself. Living away from family, I can testify to this. As a nation of immigrants, most Israelis are away from loved ones, but we've adopted one another into each of our hearts. Even though we miss our families in the States, I am thankful the for the family of friends that the Lord has blessed us with in Israel.
Chag Christmas Sameach! Merry Christmas!
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Some scholars believe the birth of Yeshua coincided with the celebration of Sukkot! Check out these posts to learn more about this Holy Day:
Sukkot Adventures (2011)
Sukkot Adventures (2010)
Hanukkah Adventures (2012)
Salt Dough Hand Prints
Making Grits in Israel