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Dear Reader

I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

"This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine". As nature draws us deeper into darkness
with longer nights and shorter days, our ancient forefathers began to
celebrate light as a gift of God. The power and presence of God is
seen in the light overcoming the darkness of our nature. It represents
life over death.

This Wednesday is the first day of the Jewish feast of Chanukah
(Hanukah), the Festival of Light. This festival commemorates the
victory of purity over impurity, and of faith over just giving in.

In the second century before Christ, Jerusalem's great Second Temple
had become impure due to a evil Syrian king who ruled over the land.
There was great pressure within the Jewish community to just go along
with the Greek ways which was the popular culture of the time.

There were many martyrs who refused to give up their religion. They
could have saved themselves if they would just eat pork. They refused
to eat the pork or cheat on the many laws of purity which dominates
Jewish life and ritual.

At this time the Maccabees, an army of Jewish dissidents, rose up
willing to pay the ultimate price. Many became martyrs to the cause of
rededicating the temple. They remained pure and faithful to their
religion. Eventually they were able to reclaim the temple as their
own.

Within the temple was a seven branch candelabra which was required to
be kept burning with pure oil under the supervision of the High
Priest. When they reclaimed the temple there was only enough oil for
one night. It would take days to prepare a batch of oil by religious
law to fulfill their mission. However God honored their faith and
courage by miraculously keeping the menorah burning for eight days
before adding newly blessed and prepared oil. Thus was born the
tradition of the lighting of a lamp (candle) for each day plus one.

Christians set the celebration of the birth of Jesus during this month
to celebrate Christ as the light of the world. Thus, the season of
Advent is a season of lights. One candle for each of the four weeks as
the days grows shorter. This time of year also finds the primitive
celebration of the winter solstice marking the shortest day of the
year.

December 25th is certainly not the birthday of Jesus. Birthdays are
actually a modern celebration. However the celebration of the birth of
Jesus falls today on the 25th day of the last month of each year
occurring after the solstice when the light now is becomes longer. The
spiritual significance of nature's transition from the longest day of
darkness gives occasion to teach what Jesus means to Christians as the
light of the world. Almost all ancient cultures and religions have
festivals of light during this time.

What is most important in acknowledging our traditions and renew faith
is God indeed cares for us, . It renews our hope that justice can
overcome injustice, good can overcome evil, and that love overcomes
hate. It is a time when believers and non-religious ones are able to
celebrate hope and love. We can each be a light. We can each shine
with love in the darkness of prejudice and misunderstanding, . We can
choose to have faith in one another and call forth the best in each
other. Happy festival. Enjoy. Be Blessed.

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