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Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

As a New York State resident, my head and heart hang low.  Many of you may have heard of an assault on a Rabbi outside his home near New York City a day or so ago, the thirteenth in a string of anti-Semitic attacks in just the last month.

If any of my elder brothers and sisters in faith are reading this right now, please accept my heartfelt condolences, love, and assurance of prayers.

I cannot help but look at the parallel histories of our respective peoples — viz., Jews and Christians.  Both have spread, like twin streams, throughout different societies, abiding as strangers and sojourners.  Both have endured hardship and isolation — one with the hope of their Messiah, the other with the hope of their Messiah’s Return.

Let us, then, not forget one another, but strive together for peace.  We’ve just passed through seasons characterized by the lighting of trees and candles, which draws to mind the immortal words of St. John the Apostle:

Now this is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

– 1 John 1:5

Peace, and God bless.

Acknowledgement

By ארכיון השומר הצעיר יד יערי – Hashomer Hatzair Archives Yad Yaari, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5840684

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First of all, let me assure my readers that the film reviews will resume soon.  I just wanted to touch on this time-sensitive topic as early as possible.

Menorah

I’d like to think that it is providential that we Christians celebrate Advent during the same time that our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights.”

Both peoples — that is, Christians and Jews — have known God’s faithfulness and care throughout the millennia, and the flames of the menorah and the Advent wreath alike call to mind the hope that comes from this faithful God — a hope carried through many turbulent centuries in the midst of turmoil, darkness, and uncertainty.

I’ve discussed the focus of Advent already, if you recall.  But what exactly is Hanukkah all about?

Antiokhos_IV

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean Revolt, which took place in Israel in the second century B.C. and is chronicled in the Old Testament books titled 1 and 2 Maccabees.  At this point in time, Israel was under the rule of the Seleucid Empire, which inherited the conquered territories of Alexander the Great.

Under Seleucid rule, the Israelites were forced to worship the Greek gods in the Jerusalem Temple.  Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the Temple, set up an altar to Zeus there, and outlawed the traditional Jewish religion.

Temple

In order to fully understand why this was such a big deal, we have to understand a couple things.  First, the Temple, for the Jews, represented the entire universe.  It was a place where the Creator, the One Who made and sustained all things, could be given proper worship.  It was here that the Sabbath proclaimed in Genesis, which points to worship as the “vocation” of the whole created world, could be eminently celebrated.

Second, the allegiance of the Israelites to Yahweh, their God, was fundamental to who they were as a people.  If we peruse the Old Testament, we will find that faithfulness to the One True God was absolutely non-negotiable for them.  Fidelity was rewarded with blessings, infidelity with punishment.  Israel was to acknowledge God as her loving Lord and sole source of life, and as the only God in existence:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! (Deuteronomy 6:4)

A revolt against Antiochus’ tyranny was led by Judas Maccabeus (“The Hammerer”), whose followers became known as the Maccabees.  Though Judas himself was killed, the large scale rebellion was ultimately successful.  The Temple was cleansed of its pagan influence and rededicated, and the Jews were able to resume their religious practices.

Hanukkah2

Almost everyone is familiar with the legend in which the victorious Maccabees, upon entering the Temple, could only find enough oil to light the menorah for one night; miraculously, it lasted for eight days and nights, until more oil could be found.

The important thing to remember is that this would have happened in the context of the Temple’s rededication — that’s what the Jewish people celebrate every year when they observe the eight days of Hanukkah.

Advent

Our Jewish brethren light the Hanukkah candles one by one during the season in which we Christians light the Advent candles one by one.  Again, I believe this to be providential.

As we prepare for Christmas, we celebrate and look forward to the coming of the One Who comes to rededicate the real Temple — the world.

Jesus Christ, that strange King born in poverty and weakness, comes to free His cosmic temple from the desecration of the devil, the one who brought death, war, hatred, selfishness, suffering, and turmoil into the world so very long ago.  With His precious Blood, He has ransomed His People and all of creation from death and decay so as to present them to God the Father renewed in Himself.

Yes, we wait for the full realization of this redemption, but:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28)

This was true for the Maccabees, and it is true for us.  Just as the ancient Israelites had enough oil to last them until more could be procured, we have enough hope to last us until our Savior comes in glory to renew all things.

And so we have reason to light candles.

Special thanks to my friend, Tom Talbot, for sharing the top photo.  The rest of the photos are from Wikipedia.

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