Inner lightThey set out from Mount Hor by way of the Sea of Reeds to skirt the land of Edom. But the people grew restive on the journey, and the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe this miserable food.” The Lord sent seraph serpents against the people. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede with the Lord to take away the serpents from us!” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a seraph figure and mount it on a standard. And if anyone who is bitten looks at it, he shall recover.” Moses made a copper serpent and mounted it on a standard; and when anyone was bitten by a serpent, he would look at the copper serpent and recover.Numbers 21:4-9 (JPS Tanakh)

And just as Mosheh elevated the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, so that none who believe in his will perish, but rather they will live eternal life…

This is the verdict: that the light came into the world, but the sons of men loved the darkness more than the light because their deeds are evil. For all who do injustice hate the light and will not come to the light, so that they may not be rebuked for their deeds. But one who does the truth comes to the light so that it may be revealed that his deeds are done with God.John 3:14-15, 19-21 (DHE Gospels)

What does all this have to do with Chanukah? I admit, not very much. The themes are only superficial in terms of “light” and “renewal”. Or are they?

No, Chanukah doesn’t tell the story of Jesus in any real way, but it’s all but unavoidable to make some sort of connection between Chanukah and Jesus because the Festival of Rededication occurs so close to Christmas in our December calendar. Many Jewish parents struggle to try to disconnect this “proximity” association in my minds of their children, especially as their Jewish children see their goyim and especially Christian friends and classmates having fun with all the lights and music and Santa Claus and particularly all of the Christmas “loot”. The Christian Christmas has become tremendously influenced by the commercial, secular Christmas among the children of the church, and I can appreciate how Jewish parents don’t want all that to spill over into the lives of the children of Jacob.

Blogger Justin Bond recently wrote an article called Chanukah and a kosher Christmas, so I suppose anything I write that somehow associates these two events is redundant. On the other hand, my purpose today isn’t to compare and contrast the two holidays but to try to express what a Christian like me (and I’m not exactly a typical Christian) can get out of lighting the Menorah.

Look at the original event involving Moses and the copper snake on the staff. People were dying. Lots and lots of people were dying and frankly, it was their own fault. They had pushed God and pushed God and pushed God and this time, God pushed back. I wonder why people ever imagine they can just flaunt God’s will, but then, human beings have always been notoriously short-sighted.

So God tells Moses to do something a little unusual. He tells him to construct “a seraph figure and mount it on a standard. And if anyone who is bitten looks at it, he shall recover.” That’s kind of strange. It’s like God told Moses to make some sort of graven idol for the people to look at and then they would live. The interesting thing is, later in history, people actually did worship the thing (2 Kings 18:1-4). Given the commandment not to make any such images (Exodus 20:4), why would God put such an obvious temptation in the midst of the Children of Israel? Certainly he recalled the “incident” of the Golden Calf; the sin in which the Israelites partook while Moses was still on the mountain with God (Exodus 32).

And yet, Jesus actually compares himself to the copper snake in that, all who look upon him, as they looked upon the copper snake, though bitten and fatally poisoned, would live. Talmud Rosh Ha-Shanah 29a states that the reason people lived is that, in looking up to the snake (the image of what was killing them), they actually raised their eyes to Heaven. Though the son of God, Jesus allowed himself to be compressed or reduced or humbled so that he could become a human being, just like we are…something “ordinary” rather than Heavenly, so that we could actually see him and through him, the Father, and thus live.

Yeshua (Jesus) spoke to them once more, saying, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness, for he will have the light of life. –John 8:12 (DHE Gospels)

We live in a world of darkness. I suppose it’s appropriate that Chanukah comes at this time of year, when it’s cold outside and the morning sun rises so late in our day. Each morning when I get up, it is still black outside, and it’s still, and it’s even lonely. Then the day comes and is gone and by the time I get home from work, it is black outside again. I suppose I can’t blame my Christian brothers and sisters for putting so many lights on their homes to keep the night and the coldness it brings at bay. During Chanukah in my home, only the light of a few tiny, faint candles illuminate the obsidian abyss, but that is a fitting metaphor for living in a dark and broken world.

We are all stumbling in the dark, like a blind person feeling about, trying to find some familiar landmark by touch alone. We strain to see even the faintest glimmer of hope and when we do, we rush toward it, terrified by what might be just behind us, pursuing us in the invisible space just inches from the nape of our necks. God sent a light into the world so we wouldn’t have to live in darkness but faith feeds the light. Fear, despair, and hopelessness feeds the darkness and human beings are suspended between these two forces, longing for illumination but struggling with the gloom.

Though it’s only symbolic, we can choose to see Messiah and Savior in the lights of our life and very soon, in the lights of the Chanukah menorah. The first night, we light only one, and the next night two, and the next night one more than two and so on, until we have fulfilled all eight nights. Each night our homes and presumably our hearts glow a little brighter as we push back the darkness and let the light enter more freely into our lives.

This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 20th and will continue through the 28th. Light the candles or the oil in your home this year. Create a spark in your life and in your heart. As Christians, we know that Jesus is the light of the world and he pushes back against the darkness that threatens to engulf us. As Christians we also know that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) and that, to extend my metaphor, we must shine that light into not only our homes, but into lives of those around us.

So also, shine your light before sons of men, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven. –Matthew 5:16 (DHE Gospels)


Happy Chanukah.

3 thoughts on “Shine”

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