For the week of December 27, 2008 / 30 Kislev 5769
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17;
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:42-53; 28:9-15
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7; Isaiah 66:1-24, 1 Samuel 20:18-42
Light in the Darkness
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. (Zechariah 4:1; ESV)
As I write this it is the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere at least). I took a walk early afternoon today and noticed how long the shadows were, with the sun being so low in the sky. I don't know if the ancients really worried every year that the sun would disappear. I suspect they were smarter than that. It is interesting that they would invent rituals regarding this phenomenon. There is something about the ever increasing duration of darkness night by night that is truly ominous.
There are some New Covenant believers that postulate that Christmas is nothing more than a slightly modified version of pagan winter solstice rituals, but I think this is a wonderful time to celebrate the coming into the world of God's marvellous light in the person of his Son, the Messiah.
I know that some people have claimed to know what time of year Yeshua was born, but the New Covenant writings don't say. I can't think of a better time of year to celebrate the Light of God.
As Jewish Believers my family doesn't engage in the trappings of the Christmas season, but I still love to see the beautiful displays of Christmas lights as I drive down our streets on these cold, dark nights. While not knowing the convictions of these people, this is still a great illustration of God's light shining in the darkness of our lives.
Christmas is not the only festival at this time of year that features lights. One of the alternate names of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah begins this year on the evening of December 21 and continues through the evening of December 28). Hanukkah, meaning "dedication," is the celebration of the rededication of the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees in 165 BCE following its desecration by pagan oppressors. It is called the Festival of Lights because of the ritual of lighting a special ceremonial lamp called a Hanukkiah. On the first night of Hanukkah one light is lit. On each successive night an additional light is lit, each time by using the "shamash," or the servant light, until on the eighth night all eight lights are lit.
The purpose for the lighting of lights at Hanukkah is to tell forth the miracle of Hanukkah. The miracle that has been popularized through the centuries is the legend of the one day's worth of holy oil that lasted for eight days. But I think the real miracle of Hanukkah, the true light of this joyous celebration, is the faith and courage of the Maccabees to stand against overwhelming odds for the sake of God's truth and his ways.
This season of increasing darkness is a symbol of our moral and spiritual lostness. The economic meltdown in much of the world today is helping us to come to grips with how dark these days really are. We need God's light. Like the Maccabees of old, we again need those who will stand against compromise and falsehood to be a light in the darkness - people of courage, who are not afraid to stand with God's True Light, the Messiah, to shine in an ever increasingly dark world.
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