The winter solstice—the longest night of the year—will be on Saturday night, December 21, 2019. From that moment onward our too short days will begin to lengthen, as the world slowly begins tilting back towards the sun. While we still have the coldest days of the winter ahead of us in January and February, the sun will not relent. The warmth of spring is guaranteed.
There was no guarantee of success for the brave warriors whose exploits are retold in Jewish homes during Hanukkah—the Feast of Lights. The first candle of Hanukkah will stand watch on Monday night, and another light will be lit each night over eight days, as the story of the miracle of the holy oil that did not run out is commemorated with both solemnity and joyful celebrations.
Just two days after the first light of Hanukkah it will be Christian believers who gather amidst the holiday lights to recount the story of the birth of Jesus—truly the First Noel! It is a story that never gets old for me, one filled with mystery, drama, and unmatched love. The traditions of Christmas are among the most cherished in our family, and every year offers us new ways to understand and celebrate God’s great love for our world.
Do you know how I want to greet the longest night of the year? Safely home, with family and friends. That’s how most of us like to greet the holidays. In 2013, the PEW Research center asked people what they most looked forward to during the holidays. A convincing majority identified time with friends and family as their choice.
While we can find menorahs and Christmas trees in public places and shopping malls, the ones that we care about—the lights we cherish—are the ones in our homes, where the people we love can be found, where our favorite stories are told and retold, and our spirits are renewed.
Proverbs 20:27 says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.” During these wondrous holidays, when the lights of our distinctive faiths so brilliantly illuminate the long nights of winter, our challenge is to remember that we are called to become the candles of God, burning brightly with what we have experienced and learned of His love and care. Before this light, darkness flees. In this season of light it is not our individual faith expressions that shine brightest—it is love.
To be a candle of divine love! Is there any calling that could burn more brightly? No wonder we celebrate!