“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord”. (Lk. 2:10-11)
Dear Intercessors for Israel:
As I write this prayer letter, it is the eight day of Hanukkah, the great Jewish celebration in memory of the miracle in the Temple when there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for one day. The oil miraculously burned for eight days until more was prepared. Marylois has all nine candles lit on the menorah in our window (one is the server candle). This celebration normally is a joyous time in Israel, with shopkeepers selling sugared donuts called sufganiot, and families getting together. This year is different, for the COVID pandemic has forced most shops to close, restaurants to be shuttered and families to separate.
Despite all the restrictions and government lockdowns, it is still a wonderful season where-ever you are, to draw nearer to the Lord. You don’t need a lot of flashy lights, sugared donuts, and carols to come closer to the Savior. The Word says: “Seek me and I shall be found.” All day, I have had the verse from Isaiah running through my mind. “For unto us is a child born, unto us is a son given.” And every time that I thought of this verse, I naturally meditated on it. What a divine miracle, so great that Isaiah prophesied about it some 700 years before the Christ child was born in Bethlehem. The more I kept meditating on this verse, the more joy rang out of my heart. I think that is the secret to true Christmas cheer: the promised Word of a Savior to deliver sinful man from his transgressions. A Savior who has “the government upon his shoulder,” and who “name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah continues with the words that “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” He shall sit “upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.”
The Tower of the Flock
Drive south of Jerusalem and soon you will be on Route 60, headed towards Hebron. Just as you pass, the outskirts of Bethlehem, look out to your right. There you will see fields with ancient watch towers while others are more modern. These were built to watch over the ripening grape fields so as to prevent thieves from stealing the harvest.
These “watch-towers” were built for other purposes as well. The Talmud speaks of one such tower called “Migdal Eder”, near Bethlehem. All sheep found within its area were deemed to be holy and consecrated and could only be used for sacrifices in the Temple. Micah prophesies: “And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall come, even the former dominion shall come the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem” (Micah 4: 8). “Tower of the flock” in Hebrew is “Migdal Eder. Based on that Word, the Jewish religious leaders of the day determined that it would be from this precise location that the Messiah’s arrival would first be announced.
And that’s exactly where the angels proclaimed to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:14). This announcement was sign to all of Israel, and the news this long-awaited birth of the Messiah spread quickly. (Lk. 2:17-18)
The Birthplace of Jesus
Some religious scholars have determined that Jesus was most probably born in the Migdal Eder, which was inside the boundaries of Bethlehem. (See: Alfred Edersheim: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Bk 2, Ch. VI). The Bible does not say where, other than “there was no room in the inn.” The Migdal Eder was a special tower used to birth the lambs used for the sacrifices in the Temple. What a perfect fulfillment of the type for Jesus to be born here, for he is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).
Luke writes that the shepherds would find the babe wrapped in “swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Lk. 2:4). These were not any shepherds, but Levites tasked with caring for the sheep and protecting the newborn perfect spotless lambs. These lambs would then be wrapped in swaddling clothes to guard them from injury. And these swaddling clothes were not just ordinary rags, but clothes once used by the Temple priests, and later cut into strips to be used to wrap these newborn lambs, which were soon to be sacrificed in the Temple. The shepherds upon hearing the angels knew exactly where to go, the Migdal Eder! John the Baptist proclaimed to all: “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (Jn. 1:29).
This Migdal Eder may very well have been near the traditional cave where the church of the Nativity is today. It was Origin, an early Church Father, though who first stated that Jesus was born in a cave located in Bethlehem. Regardless of where in Bethlehem, Jesus was born, Paul writes: “…when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4-5)
Tidings of Great Joy
The angels told the shepherds that they came with “tidings of great joy.” This joy continues to ring out throughout the centuries. And COVID or no COVID virus, please receive his gift of joy into your heart.
Years ago, Marylois and I, started a tradition on Christmas morning. We would awaken to the sounds of joy, as the children discovered their presents underneath the tree. But before we would let them tear into the gifts, we would take a moment to read the Christmas story in Luke to the three children. We wanted them to know the real meaning of Christmas. It wasn’t found in Santa, reindeer, sleigh bells or toys. No, Christmas began when the angel cried out “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” That heavenly announcement is the true meaning of Christmas for “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall have everlasting life.”
We have been watching The Chosen on the Chosen App. Make sure this Christmas season that you play the first episode, the Christmas Miracle. You’ll love it. This year 2020, we also have a Christmas “star” to light our way at night. Jupiter and Saturn for the first time in 800 years are converging December 21st within a ½ degree. The combined reflected light from both of them will appear perhaps like the great star the wise men followed to see the Christ child.
A year ago, December 22nd to be exact, Marylois and I left Jerusalem and Israel. We “thought” we would soon be back and had made plans to return before Passover. Then as we all know, came the COVID pandemic, and a worldwide lock-down. We had to remain where we were, at the home base for Global Outreach (formally ETH&S Ministries). We have found ourselves very busy, with the day-to-day activities here, working, leading bible studies, prayer and counseling. We love you and thank you for your prayers, and gifts for the House of Peace, and for us personally. “May the Joy of the Lord be your strength” in this season.
Bringing you Tidings of Great Joy,
Gene and Marylois/House of Peace