"I am the vine, you are the branches"
December is probably the most joyful month of the year. Everyone is shopping and excited to gather with family and friends to celebrate the Holiday Season. Stores and homes are decorated with festivity. All the favorite shows are on television and churches are having their musical programs and people are singing all their favorite Holiday songs. We usually spend the whole month celebrating by eating those favorite cookies and desserts that everyone likes to make to show off their culinary expertise. But what is it that we are celebrating? Well, most people will say Christmas, others may say Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Even though they are all different, they all have one thing in common and that is that they are a celebration of light. So why is light so important to us? December 21st is the beginning of the winter solstice, where the days are at their shortest and the nights are at their longest. Scripture tells us all about the light and why it is so important to us. We are going to look at the True Light.
The Dawning of the Light
It says that in the beginning God created light and this light that was created was the light that came before He created the sun and moon. So what was this light? Well, it was a spiritual light. His own Spirit hovered over the universe and so with the dawn of history, God was present. He divided the light from the darkness and so created good and evil: His kingdom which was light and the kingdom of evil which was to be the kingdom of darkness. And so from the beginning there was this conflict that started in the heavens and continued on earth. We know that the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden and so God cursed the serpent and man, but He did not leave it there because, as always, God gives hope. God said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise him on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." So God was saying that this conflict would go on between the kingdoms of good and evil but one day, One would come of the seed of the woman that would change the course of history and even though that One would suffer by the hands of those who were the seed of the evil one, He would have the ultimate victory by crushing his head.
The Sign of the Light to Come
The prophet Isaiah spoke twice about the sign of this Light. Once was to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14 when Isaiah said, "The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call Him Immanuel." And in Isaiah 9:1-7, specifically verse 2: "The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light; those who live in a dark land, the Light will shine on them." Verses 6-7 continue, "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. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom."
The Announcement of Light
There was a virgin whose name was Miriam. She resided in the town of Nazareth in the Galilee. She was engaged to be married to a man named Yosef. Now one day when Miriam was at home (her father's home, for she was not yet married to Yosef), an angel called Gabriel came and stood before her and greeted her with these words: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." To her amazement and confusion, the angel continued, "Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you will give Him the name Yeshua." Now we want to stop and look closer at this message. What the angel says next is a reference to the Davidic Kingdom in 2 Samuel 7, where God is speaking to David and how this Son that was to be born was to be the fulfillment of the promise to David. This is important because this is a picture of the Messiah who would come from the line of David. The angel goes on to say, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High" (compare to 2 Samuel 7:9, 14). The angel said, "The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David (compare to 1 Kings 2:12), and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end (compare to 2 Samuel 7:13)."
So we see that Yeshua was the one who would sit on the throne of King David forever. But Miriam was doubtful, she said, "How could this be?" Sometimes God speaks to us such great things that we not only do not understand, but we are frightened by the thought of it. Miriam's first response was that she was not yet married to Yosef, and I'm sure that even though she was from the line of David, to think that her son would be next in line for the throne was too awesome to grasp. We must understand what ran through Miriam's mind all in a matter of seconds. Miriam, being quite troubled, was reassured by the angel. Those comforting words that he spoke in the beginning, "Fear Not!" were like healing balm running though her spirit. So the angel continued with, "The Holy Sprit will come upon you." This reference to the Holy Spirit is one of anointing. If you look at the reference to the anointing of Saul and David, you will see that the Spirit came upon them. So if the Spirit came upon the kings of Israel, then it is only natural that the Spirit or the anointing would have come upon Yeshua upon conception. It is the sign of the Messiah, The Anointed One.
The Foreshadowing of Light's Redemption
Gabriel goes on and tells Miriam, "The power of the Most High will overshadow you." The word here for "overshadow you" has the same equivalent in Greek as in Hebrew, tzalel or in Aramaic, tallel, which is often applied to the Shekinah or the Divine Presence descending on a person or object. This word in the noun form tzeil or in Aramaic, tallel, defined as "shadow," literally and figuratively means shelter. This is the same word used for the booths made during the Feast of Tabernacles, or in Hebrew the Feast of Sukkot, when everyone makes a Sukkah. This represents the Cloud of Glory or the Divine Presence that overshadowed Israel in the wilderness. In the Talmud, this expression is taken as conversion to faith in God based upon Ruth 2:12, where Boaz describes Ruth, the Gentile, as having taken refuge under the wings of God. Ruth later says to Boaz, "Spread your wing over your handmaid" (Ruth 3:9).
There is a parallel between Ruth and Miriam. The sages make it quite clear that when Ruth tells Boaz, "Spread your wing over your handmaid," it was of the purest of conduct between the two; it was Ruth's request for redemption since Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer (The kinsman-redeemer was usually a brother or relative of a man who died and left no children. By Torah law they were to marry the widow so that the name of the dead man lived on. This, in effect, was redeeming the widow, for in most cases she would have had no way to support herself and would most likely have become a slave). This term of "coming under the wings of the Shekinah" has become a term in Judaism for conversion for one who comes under the wings of the Holy Spirit. According to the Rabbis, it is like "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Through her conversion and marriage to Boaz, Ruth now becomes one with the tribe of Judah. Ruth became the mother of Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. So too with Miriam, the miraculous overshadowing is like an act of redemption. Miriam was not a convert, nor was Yeshua; but the adoption/redemption imagery is significant. Gabriel tells her that because the power of the Most High will overshadow her (which is alluding to this act of redemption/adoption), Yeshua will be called the "Son of the Most High."
Let's put this another way. Because Miriam was not yet married, through the Holy Spirit she conceived and was with child and by this act of overshadowing it is as if God was her Kinsman-Redeemer (because she had no husband), and in so doing, God gave Yeshua His Name. Miriam became the mother of Yeshua, the Davidic offspring who sits on David's throne forever. She answers Gabriel by saying, "I am the Lord's handmaid," alluding to this concept of the Kinsman-Redeemer's redemption which would one day overshadow us all; for it says, "When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." And again it says, "Giving thanks to the Father, who qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." So Gabriel received his answer and he departs.
The Conception of Light
The conception of John the Baptist is based on 1 Chronicles 24 and Luke 1:5. According to Scripture, Zacharias was from the division of Abijah, which was the 8th division. Zacharias would have served in the Temple for Shavuot (Pentecost), which would have put the conception of John during the month of Sivan, which is in June, and his birth right before the time of Passover. John would be the one to proclaim that Yeshua was the Lamb of God, the One who would take away the sins of the world.
It is believed that Yeshua was conceived during the time of Hanukkah, the Season of Light, and born at the time of the Fall Feasts, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the blowing of the trumpets. Remember the angels who announced the birth of Yeshua? It was quite customary to blow trumpets at the birth of a son and, of course, at the sound of the last trumpet Yeshua is coming back! Then there is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement. Yeshua is our atonement. And finally, there is the Feast of Tabernacles: God who tabernacles (dwells) with men. This was Yeshua, who came in the flesh so He could dwell with man.
Let's take a closer look at this. We know that the angel told Miriam that she would conceive and have a child, so we know that it was not at the moment that the angel spoke to her. It also says that Miriam arose and went with haste to see her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country, to a city of Judah. I think if she would have conceived at that moment, she would not be running to Elizabeth, but to Yosef. When Elizabeth heard Miriam's greeting, the baby (John) leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she cried out with a loud voice, "Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." Here we see a move of the Holy Spirit overtaking Elizabeth and Miriam, and the result was the leaping in the womb of John the Baptist who would be the forerunner to Yeshua, the Light. During this season of light, Yeshua the Light of the world was conceived.
The Light is Born to the World
So the Light was born out of the love of the Father and He was the image of the invisible God. He was the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and He upholds all things by the word of His power. He was given a Name above all names so at the Name of Yeshua the Messiah, every knee must bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And by His Name we are saved. John writes, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." Yeshua is the "Light of the World." He is light and there is no darkness in Him. This was the true Light that came into the world to enlighten every man. So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. We see in the book of Revelation the description of the New Jerusalem: "And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it." So the One True Light of the World shall be the light for all eternity.
And so the Light has shown in the world as we have seen from the beginning with the separation of the Kingdom of Light from the Kingdom of Darkness, and we see that the King of Light will one day rule and reign in the City of Light, Jerusalem, the City of David and His kingdom will be for eternity. So this year as you celebrate the "Season of Light," be sure that you bear witness to the One True Light, Yeshua the "Light of the World." For Scripture tells us that we who were formerly darkness are now light, and so we ought to walk as children of light. For all who walk according to the Spirit of Light shall be called the Children of God. So whatever you celebrate, we want to wish you the very best. Have a great celebration of Yeshua's birth. Happy Hanukkah and may the miracle of light shine in your hearts! Happy Kwanzaa, and may the first fruit of your harvest be blessed! As you celebrate, be sure to celebrate in the True Light!