This month we celebrated the Jewish New Year 5772. And we welcomed it with trumpets and festivities and holy crying and seeking forgiveness. And last week in Israel, Gilad Shalit, after over five years in a Hamas prison, was released to his family and waiting country. The welcomes pictured were overwhelming. And the exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners leaves much by way of controversy. Then this week we also welcomed Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of England and the Commonwealth. She went to church today to a welcoming crowd and our comments are prompted by all these welcomes.
Finally last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Hamas had agreed to a prisoner-exchange deal that would secure Shalit's safe return. As part of the deal, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, in two stages.
The deal was welcomed by 80% of the Israeli public, but several High Court petitions were filed by families of terror victims in an attempt to suspend it. The court rejected the petitions, stating that since the prisoner exchange deal was a matter of State in which the government had full authority, the court had no room to intervene in its execution.
Thus after nearly five-and-a-half years in Hamas captivity, Shalit was finally reunited with his family. Welcome home, Gilad!
Back in Canberra, and decked out in their Sunday best and brandishing flags and flowers, an enthusiastic crowd cheered as the monarch arrived at St John the Baptist Anglican church with Prince Philip for Sunday worship.
Queues began building outside the sandstone church shortly after sunrise and they finally saw her, wearing a primrose-yellow dress and hat with white gloves.
St John's was consecrated in 1845, some 70 years before Canberra was named Australia's capital, and Sunday was the queen's sixth visit to the lakeside parish, which is regularly attended by ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd. Now the foreign minister, Rudd and his family were among 100 regular parishioners selected to join the royal couple for the invitation-only service.
The queen and Prince Philip returned to Government House after church for a lunch with 50 prominent Australians including Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush and champion paralympian Kurt Fearnley.
Welcome is a key word in life. In Hebrew, "baruch haba." And whether wilkommen or welcome, or aloha, God says that to us as well! Jesus said this [recorded in John 6.37] “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. He welcomes us. And I encourage you to welcome Him to your life.
He's more alive and more real and more significant than a visit to the Oscars or an Oscar winner. He's more royal than any Queen of England or a royal flush in Las Vegas. He's more heroic than the most devoted soldier in the IDF or any army. And He wants to welcome you into His family.
Say baruch haba. Say welcome to the Messiah. Y'shua said this, too, related to welcoming Him. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES (welcome) IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (Recorded in the Bible in Matthew chapter 23. Verses 37-39)
Start a new life in 5772. Start it today. He's worth all the rejection and the considerations. He's worth all the pain and suffering. He's God's Messiah, foretold in the Jewish Bible by Jewish prophets. Welcome Him and He will welcome you into His forever family.