"What is that?" I wasn't sure if Jerry was shocked or angry.
My eyes followed his finger into the living room. "That's our Hanukkah bush."
"Your what?" Jerry scrunched up his eyebrows. "Looks like a Christmas tree, Marcey. I thought you guys were Jewish."
"We are." I glanced over at the white-flocked Christmas tree, covered with blue decorations. "It's a compromise."
"A compromise?" Jerry sounded dumbfounded.
"Yeah, you know. We're Jewish, my step mom, Don, and Jim were raised Christian. A holiday compromise."
"Uh...okay. So you guys celebrate Christmas too?"
"Oh, no. We only celebrate Hanukkah." I paused a second. "Actually, Don and Jim still do Christmas, but not with us. Mom converted to Judaism when she married my dad."
He nodded slowly, and then pointed toward the mantle. "And those are...?"
I smiled. "Hanukkah stockings. More compromise, and it's cool."
"Okay. So how do you celebrate? Do you mix other Christmas stuff in?"
"Oh, no. We celebrate Hanukkah for sure. No Santa or anything-we do the menorah and dreidel and everything. Don and Jim get their presents mostly at Christmas, but all the rest is Hanukkah stuff."
"So they don't mean anything? The tree and the stockings are just decoration?"
I nod. "Just decorations. How we work Mom, Don, and Jim's traditions into our family. The important part is the menorah, the prayers, and the presents and stuff."
"So it doesn't bother your dad that these are Christmas symbols, and you guys are Jewish?"
I thought for a minute. "I think it bothered him in the beginning, but like I said, it was a compromise. I don't think he minds it anymore."
He nodded. But his question made me wonder.
"As a Christian, does it bother you?"
"I don't think so. It just seems weird is all." He bit his lip. "It's not like Christmas trees and stockings are what Christmas is really about."
Now I was confused. "They aren't? That stuff and Santa is all I ever hear about."
Jerry chuckled. "As you would say, they're just decoration. Christmas is about Jesus' birth 2000 years ago."
"So it's a big birthday party?"
"I suppose--in a way. But we believe that Jesus is the Messiah--the Savior of the World. So it's more than cake and ice cream."
"I didn't know Christians believed in the Messiah. And you believe He already came?"
Jerry nodded. "Did you know that the word 'Christ' is actually the Greek word for Messiah?"
"Really. We read the same Scripture that you do--we just have some other books too."
This piqued my curiosity. "But if you believe the Messiah has already come, why is the world still so terrible? The Messiah is supposed to bring the Kingdom of God, and peace and the destruction of our enemies."
Jerry breathed in deeply. "Scripture says that the Messiah would be rejected by His people, the Jews. Because it happened, the peace on earth was delayed."
My forehead started to redden. "So Jews killed the Messiah? It's our fault the world is a mess?"
"Um...I didn't say that. Just stating the facts."
"What facts? Your Bible?" I tried to control my tone of voice, but wasn't very successful.
"Well, actually, it's in yours. Isaiah talks about it a lot."
"Whatever. I just don't like the fact that you're accusing the Jews."
"Jesus was a Jew. And you are God's chosen people."
"Chosen for what? Anti-Semitism? For blame of killing the Messiah? For the Holocaust?"
Jerry put his hand on my shoulder. "God loves the Jews. He used you guys to reach the rest of the world."
I stepped away from his touch and glared. "Jerry, I think you should go."
He dropped his eyes. "All right. But will you at least think about what I said? And read Isaiah, especially chapter 53?"
I held the front door open. "I'll think about it."
Jerry shuffled toward the door.
I felt a twinge. "Jerry--I'm not really mad at you. I'm just irritated, and I don't want to talk about this anymore. I wanna be alone. I'm Jewish, okay? Don't try to change me."
He nodded as he walked out the door. "See you later, Marcey."
I closed the door behind him and walked back into the living room. I sat beside the Hanukkah bush and tried to cool down. Yet, the more that I looked at it, the more I thought about what Jerry said. About Christmas. About Jesus.
"Isaiah 53, eh?"
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