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A Season of Light

This time of year, the days are short and we long for light.

I’m inspired to write this as I celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. There are several miracles that occur in the story of this holiday, but the most powerful, the most beautiful, is the miracle of the oil. In the year 168 BCE, after fighting for their freedom to live and worship and defeating their enemy, the Jewish people returned to the holy Temple that had been desecrated and found a single vial of olive oil that was unharmed. While that doesn’t sound like much of a miracle it was, I assure you. You see, all Jewish temples have an eternal light that burns constantly, but this was only enough oil to last for a single day. The miracle was that the single vial burned for eight days, allowing the people the time needed to make more and sanctify the Temple. In the celebration of Chanukah light symbolizes, among many things, the power of hope.

Light features prominently in the Christmas story as well. The three Wise Men from the East were guided to the manger where Jesus lay by the Star of Bethlehem. It was so brilliant that its light could be seen across the world and heralded the Savior’s birth. Jesus is often seen as the Light of the World, the source of all light and a reminder to also bring light. In the celebration of Christmas, light symbolizes, among many things, the power of hope.

Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration taking place this month, features light prominently. Candles are lit each night; each one is dedicated to one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. These principles, when embodied, help to create a better world. In celebration of Kwanzaa, the light symbolizes, among many things, the power of hope.

Winter Solstice is a celebration centered on light. In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice is the shortest day/longest night of the year and marks the first official day of winter. The winter solstice also marks a rebirth of light in the world as after the solstice the days begin to lengthen again. In celebration of Winter Solstice the light symbolizes, among many things, the power of hope.

Light and Hope. They are intrinsically linked. The connectedness provides us with a powerful way through the darkness, whether it be seasonal or otherwise. A Rabbi once said to me that there is always light after darkness – always. Life is designed to work that way and if we believe that we will see it. In the meantime, he made it clear that it is up to us to be the light. All of us. To find the light in ourselves and share it with others. To acknowledge when others are being a light for us. To share the light and celebrate together, regardless of our differences or perhaps even because of them. The light is both our hope and our promise and our connection to one another.

Whether you personally celebrate these or any other winter holidays, or simply support others in celebrating theirs, I wish you a season filled with light.

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