Monday, December 22, 2008

Miracles

It’s at this time of the year that the questions begin.

“What are your plans for Christmas?”

“Got your Christmas shopping done yet?”

“Excited about Christmas?”

I smile and take a quick breath. “Well, I don’t celebrate Christmas, actually.”

It takes only a brief moment for people to recover, usually. “What do you celebrate then?” they ask.

“My family and I celebrate Hanukkah.”

No, my family and I aren’t Jewish, but we celebrate the Jewish Holy Days. This generally confuses most people; some automatically assume that I am Jewish, others glance at me covertly, as they add another item to the list of strange things about Krista.

I’m used to such wonderings. It is awkward at times, I admit, but I’m getting used to it. Hanukkah, however, is a bit different. I’ve celebrated Passover, Shuvuot and the other Holy Days found in the Torah since I was nine. But Hanukkah, found nowhere in the Torah, is something new for me.

I don’t feel equipped to tell about this eight day festival. I know the general story, I know the basics, but I don’t know everything about it, not as an observant Jew would. And so, when it was decided that during this week of Hanukkah, I ought to share something about Hanukkah with all of you, I found myself with a case of writer’s block, staring at my computer screen as I try to find a place to begin and a place to go with it all.

The story of Hanukkah begins almost 2,200 years ago, during the reign of Antiochus IV. During the reign of Alexander the Great, Israel was captured, but for the most part the Jews were left to live as Jews without fear of punishment. About a century later, Antiochus IV succeeded the throne and the oppression began.

Antiochus IV decreed that practicing the Jewish religion was outlawed, and as a result, many Jews were massacred during his reign. He desecrated the temple, appointing a priest himself and ordering that pigs be sacrificed on the alter. Since pigs are considered unclean (or non-kosher), this was a huge violation of a sacred place, God's house.

It was Mattathias, a faithful priest, who lead the revolt against Antiochus. Later, his son Judah Maccabee took the place of leader after Mattathias’ death. It was under Judah Maccabee’s leadership that the revolt succeeded and the temple was retaken by the Jews. The temple was restored, cleansed and rededicated. It was during the rededication that the miracle occurred.

For the rededication, oil was required to burn in the temple lamps. There was found only enough oil for one day, but miraculously, it burned for eight days. Eight whole days. Hanukkah, the festival of lights, was declared in celebration of this miracle, and Jews have celebrated it ever since.

To me – as I still learn more – this festival means faithfulness and miracles. The Jews who stood firm in their faith in the face of death both daunt and encourage me; I wonder if I would be strong enough to face such persecution and yet find myself encouraged to hold fast to my faith and stand firm. In past years, I have focused on that for the most part, letting the miracle slip a bit to the side. This year, however…it is the miracle that has caught most of my interest and joy.

Miracles.

I don’t know about you, but lately the world has seemed in need of a few miracles. The economy is on the brink of a depression. We all have our troubles and sorrows, pains and fears. Winter is nearly upon us and…

What about miracles?

What about olive oil burning for eight days when it should last only one? What about God’s provision in times of darkness? What about faith, hope and love?

Here’s the thing. We already have so many miracles. It’s a miracle, a blessing, that we live here in the United States of America where you can celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas and nobody will punish you for having a Menorah in the window or a tree in the corner of your living room.

There is the miracle of life, the miracle of love – the Miracle of God, Yeshua, our Savior. The miracle of family…

It is winter. Times are hard. Jobs are hard to come by and everywhere we look, it seems to be gloomy. But…God will provide. It might not be something as big or exciting as oil lasting for eight days when it should only last one.

But there are still miracles.

I know sometimes it's hard to find the strength to turn the page
When all of our tomorrows look like used up yesterdays

Maybe this path we're taking
Could really be the road to breaking free
Are you with me

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew
Just a little bit of me, just a little bit of you
One little miracle to get us through

Broken, empty promises are all we knew before
Our father's dreams of better days lay shattered on the floor

It's not too late to start believin'
Take me by the hand I'm reaching out
How about now

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew
Just a little bit of me, and a little bit of you
One little miracle to get us through

We can right the wrong
From this moment on

One little revolution could turn it all around
Back to the Kingdom we once knew
Just a little bit of me, and a little bit of you
One little miracle to get us through
- Hawk Nelson

Happy Hanukkah from snowy New England. We’re watching for and counting our miracles here.
photographic credit goes to Samantha Skinner

2 comments:

Elizabeth December 28, 2008 at 10:04 AM  

Beautiful - thank you for sharing, Krista! *HUG!*

Sam December 29, 2008 at 7:06 AM  

*snickers* Glad to see you crediting me. :PPPP

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