Saturday, March 16, 2013

No Christmas for Me, by Paula Rose

Though it’s March and Christmas is many months from now, now seems to be absolutely right time to post this writing which I wrote and gifted to my children and grandchildren a few years ago. I say that because many have read my writings, or books, but few know me, as I was, and to really know someone it's important to understand where they come from. Moreover, as a Messianic Jew who has claimed atonement in Yeshua (Jesus), I hope to honor Him today in some small way. As you read, it is my prayer that you will ask God to show you one or two people that will be touched by your story as others have by this snippet of mine.

No Christmas for Me

In the 50’s, Christmas - that happiest of times - and all that went with it like family get-togethers, tree-trimming, special foods, carols and yes…even miserly old Mr. Scrooge was  denied me. I was Jewish and not allowed to speak about Christmas or the one who made this holiday and the season this wonderful time of year what it was.
            I had my holiday…Hanukkah. Unlike Christians who had a holiday, which was easy to spell and even easier to understand, I always had to explain that Hanukkah wasn’t the Jewish Christmas.
            While Christians were decorating a tree with festive regalia, I was making papier-mâché menorahs and dreidels. My brother and I glued blue and white construction paper into chains and hung them from the ceiling. They resembled the green and red paper chains we made in our schools classroom to decorate the small tree our teacher called a festive tree…We knew it was really a Christmas tree.

            The year I turned eight, Jewish families in my neighborhood began putting up Hanukkah bushes - evergreen trees flocked in white with blue balls and lights. Some displayed them in their window.
            My mom would have none of that in her house.
“We are Jewish. Jews do not celebrate that holiday!” she would say.
            I tried to smile as my brother helped me hang the glittery “Happy Hanukkah!” sign.  

            As unschooled in Christmas as we were, we knew it didn’t belong in a yuletide home or ours. It looked like we were decorating for someone’s birthday.
            Our celebration was nothing like a birthday. What we celebrated was a real miracle! Fro the Macabees and those who joined them fought against religious tyranny and our faith was preserved. However, that wasn’t the miracle. The miracle was that one day’s worth of oil burnt for eight. 
            Today I realize that if there hadn’t been a Hanukkah, there wouldn’t have been a Christmas. If the Jewish people had vanished, where would the Messiah have come from? If he did come, who would have recognized him? Without the biblical accounting of his birth and prophesies of the miracles he would perform, how would anyone have recognized him when he did appear? He was to come from the seed of Father Abraham of the house of Judah, and be David’s direct decedent. But, if the Temple records were destroyed, how could anyone prove their linage? If we take it a step further, how would those wise men in the east, we’ve heard and sung about during every Christmas play, have known to watch the sky and when to come seeking the child of promise?
            I know to ask these questioned now. However, at the time the only miracle I was considering was the one it would take for me to be allowed to celebrate Christmas. That was my secret yearning. And I couldn’t tell anyone! After all, Jews don’t celebrate that holiday. Or do they? I wondered. My Shabbat School text mentioned something about a crazy Jewish man named “The Apostle Paul,” who followed Jesus. Because of this, it seemed to me that this Jesus was a Jew. But there was no one for me to ask.
            I returned to school the Monday after Thanksgiving with Christmas in my heart. I had a burning desire to live a life that seemed more fulfilling and less like something I always had to explain.
            When I entered my classroom, I noticed my teacher had a smile plastered on her face. She seemed somewhat pained as she explained the Christmas craft project we were going to make and give to our parents as gifts.
            Christmas ornaments, I thought, I can’t bring that gift into my home. And before I knew what I was doing, I blurted, “I can’t make those. I’m Jewish.”
            My teacher turned, looked at me, and pointed to the door. I stepped outside and waited, knowing I was in trouble. My folks had impressed upon my brother and me the art of fitting in. Yet how do you fit in when the very thing you’re supposed to loath draws your attention like nothing else has? That’s what I thought I’d ask my teacher when she finally stepped outside to speak with me.
            Instead, when she joined me, she seemed rushed and said, “Fine. Make whatever you wish. I’ll give you a passing grade for the project. But in the future leave your religious practices at home.”
            Leave my religious practices at home, I thought. How can I leave mine at home when yours confront me!
            Two nights later, during dinner, mom told dad about the incident. I held my breath and didn’t let it out again I realized she didn’t know the child was me. When I knew I wasn’t going to get in trouble, I listened in an offhanded sort of way and heard mom say, “This was hard for the teacher since she’s Jewish.”
            So even teachers have to hide who they are, I thought as I tucked my yearning for Christmas away. I promised myself I would never think of it again.

I found a sense of peace - shalom within my Jewish faith. The seasons rolled by, until I was nineteen. I met a wonderful man named Ron who loved me and agreed to become Jewish so we could wed. When our children came, we raised them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, observing all Gods Feasts and attending Synagogue every Shabbat.
            Life was good... Except for this nagging question…Who was Jesus?
            At fourteen, my brother, who was 21 months younger than me, asked me to read Isaiah 53 with him. I was struck by the portion that spoke of the suffering servant who was without sin but bore the iniquity of us all, and began to cry. 
My brother asked me, “Who’s this?”
            I remember answering, “It’s Jesus of course.”
            “I thought so. What do we do now?”
            “Nothing! Do you want to be disowned, thrown out on the street? Our parents will sit shiva for us.”
            “But we’re not dead!”
            “We will be to them!”
            We Jews have laws and our law forbids us to believe in “That Man.” We can believe in anything or nothing but not him. My brother knew that and so did I.
The holiday season before I turned thirty, a new friend pulled up in front of my home, hopped out of her car, and presented me with a Christmas themed gift bag.
            “I thought you should have this cause it’s the first letter of your name,” she said. She hopped back into her car and sped away before I could utter a word.
            I entered my home, walked to the kitchen, and placed the bag on the table.
            A few minutes later, my youngest daughter, Cheryl came in heading for the cookie jar. She glanced at the kitchen table and froze. “What’s in the bag, Mom?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Open it!”
            “Okay.” I opened the bag and pulled out a Christmas ornament. As much as I wanted to be angry, sweet little piglet wrapped around a huge letter “P” was hard to be angry at.
            “I want one too!”
            “No.” I smiled and put the present back in its bag. “Christmas isn’t for us. We’re Jews. Remember?”

When I turned forty, I discovered I was wrong and gave my life to “That Man.” I like to refer to him as the lover of my soul because he loved me enough to ransom my life with his. The only thing he asked of me was that I walk in a manner worthy of him. Immersion (baptism) seemed important to him, so it was to me as well. Moreover, the mikvot as Yeshua and all Jews call this act of cleansing is not foreign to us, but even before I knew there was to be one for new believers where I worshipped and understood that this emersion was different than any other. I was eager to participate, but my joy was increased when I called the pastor for the date of the next baptism, and discovered that it fell between Hanukkah and Christmas! Since making a public confession of my faith was going to be the most significant thing I’d ever done, and being one who likes to celebrate important events with friends, I decided to throw a party afterwards. I didn’t call it a Christmas or Hanukah party. I simply called it what it as…a celebration of a new life. When I entered the water, all I could think about was how fitting it was for me to celebrate my first Christmas by following my Messiah in the mikva as a celebration of my liberation from the curse of sin and death.
            I had wished for a world where I could be free to celebrate Christmas. Now I know that Christmas isn’t about a tree, ornaments, family get-together's, special foods, carols - or even miserly old Mr. Scrooge. Every day Christmas is about my Messiah and me. It’s about putting my wishes away and entering into everything that he has lovingly prepared for me. That is the greatest gift of all - better than Christmas or Hanukkah put together because this gift never loses its eternal value. A life exchanged…a life forever changed.

I read this:


  1. Paula, what a wonderful testimony. I'm so glad we've met on FB! Blessings and shalom in Yeshua Ha Mashiach!

  2. Thank you, Margo! It seems that although we writers have committed to write about something specific, which is not about us, when we chose to share, our reality touches some and informs others! That's why my posting for later this week will be about...