Today’s Word from Pastor Dave Bieniek…
This year, the Jewish feast of Hanukkah began at sundown on Thursday, December 10th. It is a moveable feast that happens somewhere between late November and late December each year beginning on the Jewish calendar day of the 25th of Kislev. It is also called the Festival of Lights. It is a feast that lasts eight nights and is symbolized by a candelabra with nine candles, one for each night, and a ninth candle that is used to light the others. This candelabra is typically called a Menorah but is more appropriately called a Hanukkiah. Each night one more candle is lit, so by the eighth night all nine candles shine brightly through the night.
The feast celebrates a victory of the Jewish people over the Greeks in the years around 165 BCE. At that time, the Jewish people had to rededicate their Temple in Jerusalem and needed to be able to burn their sacred Menorah to do so. They knew the job of rededicating the Temple would take several days and nights, and they only had enough oil for one night. But they prayed and then set to work. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights, and the festival was birthed.
In our household we are not Jewish, but we have lit a Hanukkiah and placed it in our window for many years. I have spoken to many Jewish friends over the years, hoping that none of them felt I was misusing or culturally appropriating their traditions. Almost without fail their reply has been something like this, “Absolutely not! Hanukkah is about spreading Light in a dark world. The more Light that can be spread the better. Please light that Hanukkiah and place it where the world can see it.”
Our world needs more Light, and whether that light comes from a Hanukkiah, an Advent Wreath, a Christmas Star, a Christmas Tree, a Yule Log, or a Griswold house, all Light counts this year. This is the darkest time of year, but it is also the time of year for lots of festivals of lights. As Hanukkah continues, Santa Lucia Day happens with a wreath of candles and treats offered early in the morning. As Hanukkah ends, we go into the Solstice celebrating the return of the sun and lengthening days, followed by Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, and the Lunar New Year.
This year, we have three Hanukkiah lit in our window. Each night we will light one more candle and allow the Light to grow and glow. We remember our Jewish friends and offer prayers for them. We remember friends and neighbors who may not have the same religious or political beliefs as we do and offer prayers for them. We remember those who are sick or dying and say prayers for them. And we especially remember nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals who are putting their lives and families at risk to help all of us; and we offer prayers, thanks, and love to them most of all.
Light and Life will truly return. Have hope. And light a candle. Place it in a window for all to see!
In Light and Joy,
Pastor Dave Bieniek