I am not Jewish but when I found that the celebration of Hanukkah began yesterday evening (the 6th of December) I was prompted to search more regarding the history and symbolism of this Jewish holy holiday. My own Christian roots are inseparable from those of the Jews, my personal religious beliefs entrenched in early Jewish religious practices as found in the Old Testament. I believe in the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jewish patriarchs in a part of world completely foreign to me except through scripture.
So, while I have these forefathers to thank for the preservation and recording of scripture and their examples of faithfulness in following the will of God at great personal cost, and while our beliefs diverge regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ, I respect their race and religion in terms of wanting to understand more about how we are the same.
According to these Jewish websites (here and here) the Festival of Lights “celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.” The 8 days have their origin in a war the Jews were fighting to regain their land from invaders and to reclaim their holy temple. When they were miraculously aided in defeating their enemies and then lit the ceremonial candle in their temple another miracle occurred when oil for the candle burned for eight days rather than one.
As is often documented in The Holy Bible, a religious people sought to live according to their beliefs (in this case a monotheistic people fought against an unjust ruler attempting to force them to convert to polytheism) and then they praised God when they were successful and able to return to their personal belief system.
This story is not new, nor will it be last we hear of it. We hear or see examples nearly every day of people in one religion (or lack thereof) attempting to force the hand of another. Militant members of ISIS are coercing less extreme adherents to join them or be beheaded. Jewish inhabitants in Israel are restricted from worshiping in the very same temple they celebrate this week. Members of many Christian nations around the world are coerced or threatened to join in popular practices surrounding them that are in direct opposition to their personal belief system, to follow a new god, so to speak.
This is an old story that will most likely continue until the end of time. So on this special week I would like to join with my Jewish brothers & sisters in remembering with gratitude the eternal God who watches over His children, who blesses them according to His promises, and who will continue to do so according to our faith. Now is not the time for letting our differences divide us. Now is the time for celebrating our commonalities and uniting our common faiths.