“You are the Salt of the Earth, but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned. It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the LIGHT of the world. A city that is set on the hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstead, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5: 13-16
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” – John 3:19-21
I happened to attend one evening what was called a Chanukah Jam held in one of the oldest synagogues in downtown Toronto. In a community filled with markets, cafes, clubs, and hipster hangouts, right in the middle of it all was this historic edifice that resembled a time no long ago where Kensington Market was the hub of Jewish life and culture for the immigrants who chose to live a better life with their traditions and faith in Toronto.
In this time of year, I look forward to a time where one of my Jewish friends would invite me to an event where I feast on the delicacies such as jelly-filled donuts and freshly made potato latkes from the frying pan served with sour cream and apple sauce. In God’s blessing, my wish came true. I celebrated this holiday in a historic location, with a bunch of new Jewish friends who are trying to revive the culture and livelihood of the Jewish experience in the 21st century.
Close to the end of the night, was probably the most emotional, spiritual and life impacting experience that I have ever encountered that shaped my faith as a believer. As a collective group we used our candles to light the menorah. I had to hold back tears but unfortunately had to let it all out because I was really moved by the men singing a Hebrew song that set the moment in a spiritual plane for me. It signified belonging. It signified triumph. It signified that we have crossed over, and we are going to keep crossing over to newer territories by the grace of God.
Chanukah, known as a festival of lights, is also known as the Feast of Dedication, or a festival of lights. For eight days, Jewish people light candles to reflect the great miracle of the Maccabean priests who had a little bit of oil to last for a day that it kept burning for a whole week by God’s grace. After this whole week, the great battle has been fought and the victory has been won.
In reflection of all this, there is another festival that falls for those that believe in Jesus, and that is Christmas. This time, the light of the world comes through the form of a baby born in Bethlehem by the name of Yeshua, or Jesus. He would be born to redeem mankind from its sins and illuminate the world through his grace, power and truth.
In a season where there is so much celebration and anticipation for the pomp and circumstance of it all with family, gift giving and commercialism, we tend to forget the real spiritual meanings that these festivals signify. These festivals are meant to remind us that it is all about the gift of light found in Jesus and receiving the gift of light and love through a dynamic relationship with him through his Spirit. Maybe this time of year you want a PlayStation 4, an LCD TV, fine clothes, some money, etc. Have you ever considered that the greatest gift you may ever need is found in the person of Christ and that it is free to begin with? There is no price tag because Christ purchased his salvation on a cross 2000 years ago. The only stipulation for you is to believe and receive in the work of Christ, repent of your sins, and life your life anew in him. Then you can really experience a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas.