The Feast of Lights

Returning home from our Thanksgiving dinner with family some miles away, we noticed a number of homes arrayed with Christmas lights. It reminded me of my childhood when returning from my grandparents during the holiday season, my siblings and I sat staring out the car windows at the array of lights trimming the majority of houses along our route.

Have you wondered where this custom came from? Of course we know Jesus was born to be ‘a light to the world’. We know He was born in the town of Bethlehem in Israel that happened to lie a few miles south of Jerusalem where high on the platform of the Second Temple Jews were celebrating the Feast of Lights on the 25th of the month of Kislev which corresponds to our December 25th, Christmas. The following passage from my novel describes the history of the Feast of Lights/ Hanukkah.

Excerpt from: Daybreak From On High

With the feast of Tabernacles past, the crowds in the Temple dwindled. In a couple of weeks, another festival was to arrive, the Feast of Lights, also known as the Feast of Dedication. It was celebrated on the 25th of Kislev. In my studies I learned on this date more than one-hundred and sixty years ago the re-dedication of the Temple occurred.

Forty years before, Israel was a state of the Seleucid Empire ruled by the King of Syria. It was a Greek State, and they worshiped Greek Gods, the highest of whom was Zeus. The king at that time allowed the Hebrews to practice their Jewish faith. When a new king, Antiochus IV, took the throne, he wanted everyone to be Greek and worship Greek gods. He called himself Antiochus Epiphanes meaning Antiochus the visible god.

The brother of the High Priest bribed Antiochus to appoint him High Priest, and killed his brother to avoid opposition. Three years later another man gave Antiochus a higher bribe and then he became High Priest. Sadly some of the bribes came from stolen gold objects used in the Temple.

Antiochus brazenly put up a statue of Zeus on the 25th of Kislev. To rid himself of the Jews he burned some of their homes and slaughtered many of them. Matthias, a Jew named like my father, began a rebellion which finally succeeded under the leadership of his son, Judas Maccabee. Judas and his men lived in caves during those years.

On the 25th of Kislev three years later, they tore down the statue of Zeus and cleansed the Temple. The men worked eight days and nights restoring the Temple to purity even though there was only enough oil for one night at most; miraculously the oil lasted for eight. For that reason pilgrims processed each year through Jerusalem holding lighted torches. In the Court in front of the Temple, eight impressive torches on lampposts were lit, making it one of the most beautiful festivals.

NOTE: Some two-thousand years since the birth of Jesus millions of Christmas lights dispel the ‘dark winter’ of 2020 in our country and in the world.

This Present Darkness

Some months ago on waking in the middle of the night, I recalled a dream of being blind: total darkness, as if my eyes did not exist, nothing just the blackness. Opening my eyes, realizing it was not real, the fear remained with me like a little child afraid of the dark.

Is it coincidence that the ‘perhaps in-coming president’ used the phrase “the darkest winter” and “the dark winter” repeatedly referring to the corona pandemic. In fact the campaign revolved around this virus as if it has the power to destroy all light including the sun and moon and stars. Is this meant to instill fear, despair, and helplessness in us poor peasants?

Wherein lies the answer to this present darkness? Let us turn to St. Paul while during his imprisonment he wrote to the Ephesians: 6:11-12 “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” St.Paul calls for action in Ephesians: 6:14 “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the spirit.” This call to pray is expanded in his letter to the Philippians: 4:4-9.

The corona virus did not create the sun and moon and stars. Nor did it create us who have been given the light of Christ Jesus. who said to Peter and you and me:”Do not be afraid.” Pray little children and do not fear the dark.

The next post will be on The Festival of Lights.