Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas is coming

the geese are getting fat! Well - it's more than that!

The children are getting ready to prepare for Pageant and I will be away for several weeks in England and France - to hear my daughter's services at Ely and Selwyn and for a little break near Nice. So this week will be the last Hebrew 'lesson' till January.

With what word or letter shall I introduce Christmas? What else is possible but with the word NXM (nacham)- as Handel's Messiah begins: נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר אֱלֹהֵיכֶם (nachamu, nachamu, 'ami, yo'mar 'eloheikem)
The children already know the word from the name נֹחַ (Noach) for of him it is said he will comfort us concerning our work. His name is from 'rest' but the writer of Genesis 5:29 connects it with נחם.

Of the human, it is used to mean console (Genesis 37:35).

Of God the word is used when God 'repents' - almost meaning 'sighed'. So Genesis 6:6-7 and Exodus 32:12. But 1 Samuel 15:29 shows some ambivalence over God's repenting. Nevertheless יהוה repenting in 1 and 2 Samuel is frequent. (1 Samuel 15:35). The children don't know these stories yet - I am just checking a few to see if I can say anything about how נחם relates to Christmas. The connection is with what Simeon was waiting for when Jesus comes to the temple for the first time with Mary and Joseph. (Luke 2:25) The consolation that Simeon is waiting for (παράκλησις paraklēsis) is that same comfort of which נחם speaks. It is the same word as the one John uses for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the paracletos. This shows the great Hebrew-Hellenist divide - how do we know what words make the transfer of the word of God from one culture to another? The LXX translation tells us - and here it is for Isaiah 40: παρακαλεῖτε παρακαλεῖτε τὸν λαόν μου λέγει ὁ θεός.

How does one introduce to children the helper of their lives? One doesn't need to - one simply points to the words that have been used through the millennia that have been God's word to us of love.

One could use Psalm 90 - a great psalm of 'turning' - for the children can at all times be encouraged to turn to God as God can be encouraged to turn to us. And in that psalm, Moses prays just such a turning (Psalm 90:13)
שׁוּבָה יְהוָה עַד-מָתָי וְהִנָּחֵם עַל-עֲבָדֶיךָ. Return, O LORD; how long?
And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants.
ἐπίστρεψον κύριε ἕως πότε καὶ παρακλήθητι ἐπὶ τοῖς δούλοις σου (LXX) Bring back O Lord! How long? Be consoled (parakletheti) over your slaves.

(Bob) Turn O Lord, how long? And sigh over your servants.
The truth about Jesus, the consolation of Israel, is that God need not repent further - for in him, he was well pleased. His pleasure in Jesus gives us all grace.

Perhaps I will begin with the letter Chet ח and see where it leads.

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