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Festival of Lights

A spiritual reflection on how light and darkenss play into the winter season.

This week begins celebrations of holy days of light. As we get closer to the first day of winter and the longest night of the year and our area is filled with darkness, the focus of many of our religious traditions will be that the light prevails.

This Tuesday evening is the first night of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. Then on Wednesday we have Winter Solstice, the celebration of the return of the Sun King. Finally on Sunday, we have Christmas day the Christian celebration of the birth of the one whom they believe to be the light of the world. Despite the different focuses all concentrate on light in some form or another.

I think it is perfect that Chanukah comes first. In the story of Chanukah, the people believed that the sacred oil would only last for one night but it lasted for eight days. This story among other things, illustrates how our doubts get in the way of the miracles that God has available. It is a great parable to strengthen us as our world enters into darkness to trust in the larger picture of life. This holiday is not a major holiday for the Jewish people but it adds hope for those who live in this area. It is a story of one candle accomplishing the impossible. 

So here we are in this advancing darkness. I know that when I am out and it is only 5 p.m. and it is so dark that I can tend to get depressed or have the desire to just go home, relax on the couch and forget about the rest of the day. It is only five o’clock! I lose so much of my day if I give in to this darkness. Our predecessors were wise in their trusting of stories to look for the light during these times of darkness. The level of faith they had is inspiring. 

We all know that as we watch the days get shorter and shorter it is just a simple movement of the Earth's axis. We know through science that the days will begin to get longer again. The sun will return. People of ancient days did not have science. They had faith and stories of magic and miracles. They had to reach into their hearts and trust that the light would prevail and bestow upon them its healing life force.

So as we travel around the neighborhood we see homes lit with lights. Some have many lights but it only takes that one single light to remind us to go within and rekindle that light of faith. One small candle can be the great reminder. 

In the story of Chanukah, the Jewish people fought and defeated the greatest army at that time, the Greeks, because they trusted in something beyond what they saw. In Zachariah the quote is “Not by might, or by right, but by my spirit, says the Lord”. This is the motivation that carried the Maccabee tribe to stand up for their religious rights as human beings. “My spirit”, says the Lord, is the light within.

It is in this example that we can see that one light is not a small thing. From one light the greatest of flames are ignited. One light can seem like a small thing but it is a great thing especially as it is added to the light of the Divine! What an amazing gift!

The trick to building our faith and kindling the flame within is to allow time for this process to take place. On December 23 the amount of daylight will increase. However the amount of light will only increase by 4 minutes. The increase of light is a slow process. We still have the rest of winter to contend with but if we trust in this slow incremental increase of light, we will be able to get through any darkness.

Hold onto the light and celebrate these festivals of light by allowing every light you see to give you hope and renewed faith! Happy Holidays!

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