Passover and Resurrection Sunday (which some people call “Easter”) have a lot in common. They usually fall on the same spring weekend and are celebrated all over the world. Passover retells the story of thousands of years ago (this is year 5779 in the Jewish calendar) when God sent Moses to set the Jewish people free from slavery in Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh did not cooperate even though God used Moses to show many signs and miracles. Only after Passover did the Pharaoh send the Jews out of Egypt with added gifts from Egyptians who wanted them to go.
At Passover, the Angel of Death swooped across Egypt, taking the life of every first-born child. Each household was affected, from Pharaoh with his wealth and power to the servant who guarded him. Moses gave Pharaoh advance warning, but the stubborn king ignored him, so the Angel of Death took the life of his child, too. The only way to prevent death was to do as God instructed the Jewish people: sacrifice a spotless lamb and sprinkle its blood on the top and sides of each house’s doorway. Then the Angel of Death would see the blood and pass over that house, not striking anyone dead.
My family is my daughter Jessica, the only one of my 4 children who wants me in their lives. She is having a baby soon, the only grandchild I will see–unless things change. Jessica spent Christmas with me in a nice (but inexpensive) hotel in Ontario, California. We stayed there before–during the Miss California competition and Thanksgiving. The hotel has a cheerful, red-hued lobby; a pool; and walkways with a gazebo and rose gardens. It reminds me of hotels I stayed in throughout China. We gave away some of my books to curious staff members and enjoyed green tea, butter cookies, and a few wrapped gifts. I am thankful that, though I do not own my own home, this year I was not homeless. I have a good job and can afford a hotel near to where Jessica lives.
Jessica read the story of the first Christmas as written in the Bible’s Gospel of Luke. As a Messianic Jew and a Christian, I could be criticized for celebrating Christmas, a holiday not well steeped in valid history. However, I love Christmas for the songs whose words I memorized when I was a child, the tiny blinking lights, angels, and evergreens. Jesus came as the “light of the world.” He died on a tree, our sacrifice to wash away our crimson sins, and rose again to bring new life. Somehow these ideas do not erase older traditions of Hanukah, but fulfill.
I am part Jewish. I call myself a Messianic Jew AND a Christian. The 2 seemingly contradictive terms CAN go together. Jesus was Jewish. The first Christians were Jewish, like Paul who traveled through Turkey to Rome and planted churches along the way. John, who wrote the Apocalypse, penned letters to the 7 Churches–all found in Turkey. He was exiled on a Mediterranean island not far from Antalya. My American life has joined with that Mediterranean country that connects the continents of Asia with Europe–at Istanbul. Once called Constantinople, that city rises above 7 hills adorned with ancient castles, Christian cathedrals, and Muslim mosques. Contradictions are part of daily life. Viva la difference!
People of many countries, colors, and cultures celebrated Easter together at Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship in eastern China on April 5, 2015. The church was packed, and many people stood or sat at the sides and sang joyfully together to celebrate that God loved the whole world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for sins of everyone and then rise again with a promise of eternal life. The Nigerian pastor spoke about Christ’s resurrection and message of love, hope, and unity. Continue reading →
Ginkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China. This colorful display cheered my students and me. Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee. Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones. Such is life in China. If you like my blogs, please check out my books.