A Season of Lights…
The calendar has rolled around to this Season of Lights….and I’m not talking about the red, yellow and green light strings hanging from all the rooftops right now. I’m talking about some inner light emanating from a few special candles in a menorah on my kitchen table.
Being by myself, lighting candles by myself….has been a little disconcerting this year. Have never walked in these shoes before and am still learning how to put one foot in front of the other. Truth be told, had to actually talk myself into even doing anything this year. Those that follow me will know my story – they understand. For those that do not – it’s as simple as sharing that I have lost so many loved ones in the last few months as well as my husband and youngest son. Yes, I ‘appear‘ to be strong – but nights can be a bit difficult.
But….I lit that one candle…then another…then another. I’m up to 5. As I light that little colorful candle – I stare into the flame and as it mesmerizes and locks my focus, and I strangely feel a sweet and soft peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace – a shalom – of the protection and provision of the Creator of the Universe – the Ain Sof – the YHWH – the Almighty. It truly is phenomenal.
And now I can hear the voices in the distance asking … what are you celebrating? Ahhh…love the questions. It offers me a chance to share something that I’ve been trying to pursue for such a long time…almost 40 years. This ‘season of lights’ is called The Feast of Dedication, or Chanukah (or Hannukka) in Hebrew. It represents a time in history when the few were successful in overcoming the majority which were oppressing them. The story never ceases to disappoint me – it is like a Hollywood blockbuster where a few brave men overcame the tyrants of the region. Actually, I’m anxious for history to repeat itself – soon.
The story can be read in a book called the 1 & 2 Maccabees (found in some bibles still) and I’ll attach a link at the end of this message so you can download it yourself. Basically it was a group of Jewish warriors who took control of Judea, which at the time was part of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 167 to 37 BCE, being a fully independent kingdom from 104 to 63 BCE. Which kind of destroys the whole issue that Jews were not in their land … just saying.
In the 2nd century, some of the richer, higher class Jews were becoming Hellenized (thanks to of Alexander the Great) and drifting way from the Jewish religion, even to the extent that they were reversing their circumcision! They wanted to abandon the Jewish religion and adopt the Greek lifestyle. They wanted to cancel the culture. Sound familiar? Nothing new under the sun!
According to the infamous Jewish historian Josephus:
Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city (Jerusalem), or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine’s flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. —Flavius Josephus, The War of the Jews, Book 1.1 §2
What to do? Well, there was a remnant of believers that would not succumb to abandoning the Torah and their God. When Antiochus issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice (canceling free speech, freedom of religion), a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias’ place. He and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judah. After Mattathias’ death about one year later in 166 BCE, his son Judah Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucids in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Hellenizing Jews, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars in the villages, circumcised boys and eventually were able to cleanse the temple of the Lord and rededicate it to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There was very little sacred temple oil to light the menorah, however the candles were relit and the ‘story‘ is that it lasted all 8 days. In Judaism, it takes eight days to rededicate something. Whether the oil lasted for 8 days…may or may not be true, however the LIGHT continued to glow!
Another great insight into this multi-faceted history lesson is that if Yeshua (Jesus) was born at the Feast of Tabernacles (where God tabernacled with men) and dedicated on the 8th great day, simple math will show that he would have been conceived during the Feast of Lights (Light of the World?) – just saying.
So what does all that mean for us living in the 21st century … who are not ‘Jewish’? Well, the symbolism is significant! All of us are in our own battle against the darkness, against the evil in the world, against tyrants that are trying to cancel our voices. We need the backbone to rise up and say ‘enough is enough’ … I CHOOSE to rededicate my life, to embrace the LIGHT of the Universe and allow it to shine in every crevice of my life. I will share that LIGHT and stand up for freedom of speech and faith! The battle of the Maccabees is relevant for today. Therefore I will continue to light the candles each night, reflect on what is relevant in my own life and rededicate my life to being all that He wants me to be.
Maybe you might want to ponder on that yourself and light that candle.