Hanukkah Light

by Steve Matthews

What time is it is an especially adept question during the Hanukkah season?

It seems there is a timelessness to life right now, and probably not in a good way. Our “normal” patterns and ways of marking time are disrupted.  Many people are unemployed, which affects the way they order their time.  Others, like health care workers, clergy, and teachers (just to name a few) are working harder than ever – working in person and online and in all kinds of synchronous and asynchronous combinations.  Thanksgiving patterns were different this year, and we can expect Christmas to offer challenges to our concept of “normal” time too.  

Fortunately, there are practices that enable us to experience “time” in ways that are grounding and nurturing.  On December 21 we will enter winter, and the changing of the seasons occurs regardless of who wins elections or what virus is afflicting us.  Can we sense the changing day length?  If we can’t appreciate the growing darkness, can we at least notice it and honor the rhythms of the earth that continue regardless of our human condition?  Many of our religious cycles (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost) occur every year, and while the way they are expressed may change with the current pandemic or other world events, their invitations to a deeper spiritual life expressed inwardly and in our actions is not muted.  These observances invite us to reflect and to celebrate God’s timeless and expansive love for us in ways that can embrace us in this current reality and even help us transcend the limited view of time our culture proffers.

Hanukkah (a Jewish holiday that is celebrated each year based on the lunisolar cycle) is another upcoming religious observance.  In 2020, Hanukkah lasts from Dec. 10-18. Hanukkah commemorates the liberation and rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C.E. from the Seleucids. As the Jews prepared for the celebration in 169 B.C.E., new, holy vessels were commissioned to mark the rededication.  This new menorah was required to burn continuously night after night. Unfortunately, there was only one flask of undefiled oil (enough for only one night), yet miraculously, the menorah burned for eight days until new kosher oil could be prepared.  

It has been a dark and challenging year in many ways, and sometimes I have felt lost in time and space.  How about you? I could use a little miracle of continuous light provision right about now.  How about you? I mention Hanukkah because it offers us a chance to reflect on God’s provision.  Like the oil in the menorah whose light extended miraculously from one day to eight, I wonder how God’s love has carried and is carrying us through these days in ways seen and unseen. 

The mission of FaithX is to help organizations survive and thrive in turbulent times.   One of the ways we do this is to invite people to map their assets.  Who in your neighborhood, your community, your friends and family has been a sustaining light for you and your ministry this year?  I encourage you to adopt a practice of gratitude by actually naming them and writing their names down.  In what ways might you sense a calling in this season to be that sense of provision and light to others?  Better yet, how might you combine your light with that of others for the benefit of your community.  However we choose to experience this season, perhaps we can allow ourselves to “try on” some practices that ground us in holy timelessness  – practices that deepen our sense of God’s presence and illuminate the darkness.