Hanukkah lights at Christmastime

Dec 21, 2016 by

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First there was Jehovah — the creator and grand designer of the universe as we know it. Emanating from God was Judaism, the systems of traditions God wanted his people to embrace. Finally, Jesus came as the Son of God, fulfilling all that was prophesied and anticipated by early Jews. The unfolding of the present celebration of Christmas is as simple — and as complex — as that!

Hanukkah is a celebration of light, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, and light is one of the primary attributes of God and of Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” It seems he might have written that yesterday, or last week, or last year. There is still a lot of darkness permeating the air. We see it every day when we watch the evening news, and sometimes it makes us want to cry.

But at Christmas, more so than at any other time, there are lights everywhere — in your home, at work, on the streets, in stores, etc. When you drive down your street, it often reminds you a lot of Las Vegas; there are multicolored lights, flashing lights, singing lights. Dancing lights…

This avalanche of lights is very significant to both Judaism and Christianity — it’s an effulgent marriage of sorts. That’s especially true for this calendar year because Hanukkah begins on Dec. 24 — Christmas Eve!

Historically speaking, Hanukkah began ay the rededication of the Temple at Jerusalem (the second temple) when the Maccabees successfully overcame their oppressors, the Seleucid Empire, and the wicks of the menorah only had enough oil to burn for one night, but the miraculously burned for eight nights. If we look closely, we will see the hand of God in that.

Similarly, the Magi were led to the site where baby Jesus lay by the light of a humongous star, often called the Star of Bethlehem. The star traveled until it reached the place where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were, then it stopped overhead, according to the Word. This, the light in the sky, miraculously pointed to the Light of the World — one of Jesus’ most well-known monikers. We can also see the hand of God controlling that, it fact it reveals that there was a Mission Control long before there was a Houston.

When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness during the Exodus, they were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. That was their light, foreshadowing the light that would come when Jesus entered the earth realm.

We still need miraculous light every day to see our way through our lives. I am in favor of celebrating that light with Advent candles — and a Menorah. There are lots of Christmas celebrations that enhance our spiritual lives, and these two are prominent among them.

Brenda Isaacs is a retired Mennonite pastor, author and part-time teacher in the Court School System who lives in Bakersfield, Calif.

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