We have much to learn from each other. I have been reading reflections each day throughout Chanukkah. I have found this to be a deeply enriching experience. Today I visited Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue. I am embarrassed to say that it was my first visit there. It is a grand building and clearly a very sacred space. I went in there in search of dreidels and I found LOTS OF THEM! While I was there I also picked up a Menorah. Following the writings of people like Rabbi Falcon, Rabbi Kushner, and Rabbi Jason Miller, have been a great way to grow spiritually as I learn more about this holy observance of our Jewish brothers and sisters.
For the seventh candle, starting Tuesday evening, December 7 Rabbi Ted Falcon offers this Chanukkah prayer for the lighting of the Menorah. “I light this candle to ignite the creativity that needs to be expressed through me. Deep resources of creativity help me meet challenges in my life and in my world.” He encourages the faithful to carry a Focus Phrase for the seventh day of Chanukkah: I respond creatively.
Rabbi Falcon is reminding Jews to respond creatively. This is a call to respond creatively to the challenges in one’s life and in the world. This is a call that we all need to heed. The Christian soul also needs to be reminded to respond creatively to the needs of the world. Today I also read a reflection by my friend Rabbi Jason Miller on Read the Spirit. His reflection on this seventh day of Hanukkah is a call to action to address injustice. He writes this story:
A Chasidic story is told of a man entering a dark room. He is overwhelmed by the darkness.“Don’t worry,” said his friend. “The darkness hits only at first. Soon your eyes will grow accustomed to it, and you will hardly notice the dark.” “My friend,” replied the man, “that is our problem. Judaism teaches us to distinguish between lightness and darkness. But unfortunately, by becoming too accustomed to the situation, we begin to think of the darkness as light!”
This story is a great reminder of how we become to accustom to the darkness with which we live in the world. (please read the rest of Rabbi Jason’s message by clicking here). Rabbi Jason reminds his readers to respond to the darkness as the chosen people – to be light in the midst of darkness.I want to echo those words to Christians as well. This message of being light in darkness is a message that our Christian community also embraces. This past Sunday was Advent 2. We focused on HOPE. It is the radical hope that one day we will embrace the hope that God has set before us. We heard from the writings of the prophet Isaiah that we will be delivered by a loving and just Saviour:
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbours,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
As we prepare for Christmas, let us not forget that we are called to imitate the One who comes to be one with us – Emmanuel. The nativity is a story that speaks of God/Light/Love coming in the midst of darkness. As Christians we believe that Light was delivered in the form of the infant Jesus. But that does not spell the end of the story. We must shine as a light in the darkness. And as Rabbi Falcon as reminded his follows today be focus on being creative, I too ask our people to respond creatively to the needs in our world. We are called to build the world that the prophet spoke of…we long for the day when the wolf will be a guest of the lamb. We need to find creative ways to cloth ourselves with bands of justice and belts of faithfulness. In no small measure this will mean that we will come to better respect people of other faiths, people of different nations and races, people who do not understand, and people who have yet to see God in any way.
Rabbi Jason writes:
“To be a “light unto the nations” means that when there is darkness in our world, we must be the guiding light, the symbol of leadership, the beacon of hope, and the impetus for change. We must lead the way out of the darkness and into the light. We do this by realizing that our efforts at both justice and righteousness must extend beyond our own people.”
I could not agree more! I think we as Christians need to accept as well that being a light unto the nations requires us to think beyond Christianity, beyond our own circle and our own comfort zones. It is great that we love neighbour, but perhaps being a creative light this Advent Season, might mean learning more about those who are ‘strangers’ to us. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity of Difference reminds us that in The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we are told no less than 32 times to love the stranger.
Let us find creative ways to honour God this Advent by reaching out to those who may be a light to us in our own darkness.