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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Festival Of Lights

Menorah candles
In him was life, and the life was the light of humankind. The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.
- Gospel of John 1:4-5 

At Sunday evening's service with members of neighboring house churches we reflected on the connection between the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah--which this year begins at sundown on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve Day--and our season of Advent. Each of these festivals celebrates the miracle of light.

At one point we sat in total darkness as we listened to Handel's Aria "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light", from the Messiah. We then introduced a single Christ candle representing the "great light" portrayed in the book of Isaiah. This was followed by each person lighting one of numerous candles on a table in front of the room.

Elly Nelson then led us in the lighting of the first Chanukah candle, with the Hebrew blessing, "Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, El-o-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-O-lam, a-sher kid-de-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav,  ve-tzi-va-nu, le-had-lik ner Cha-nu-kah," or "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah."

Visible light is a fitting metaphor for God's light and life. Light has physical properties like intensity, frequency and speed--a constant 299,792,458 meters per second--whereas darkness has no measurable properties. It simply represents the absence of light.

The more pervasive the darkness, the more powerful and life-changing the light. We experienced the visual effect of that in ending our service by turning every light possible back on in the Great Room of the Old Massanutten Lodge. In total contrast to the pitch darkness one would experience in the now padlocked Massanutten Caverns next to our place of meeting, we celebrated a great light indeed.

In this Advent season, we long for God's "light of life eternal" to illumine, inspire, expose, and to give us much needed clarity and direction.
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