John 1:9 (New Living Translation)
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
As Christmas drew near this year, Frances, one of my friends, announced that she had my gift--and that she had traveled "all the way" to Thornhill, to find it. She couldn't wait until Christmas Eve, when we'd be at her house after the Christmas Eve service, and I could open it. I was excited, and curious too, wondering what the mysterious gift could be.
It was a long and narrow package and well taped together, but as I pulled away at the layers of tissue, I was as mystified as ever. Whatever it was I couldn't tell until it emerged from its tissue cocoon. It was a Jewish candlestick--a menorah. It was a most unusual one--made of fine black painted metal, with the service candle holder in the centre, and with four candle holders on either side in the middle of little chairs that swiveled. She said she chose it because my house is a "house of chairs."
The menorah, symbolizing the defying of darkness by light, was a wonderful Christmas gift, although it's really an intrinsic part of the Jewish celebration of Chanukah. Frances had gone to a Jewish store and carefully chosen it, trying to explain to the puzzled salesman, why she wanted to give a menorah as a Christmas present.
Along with the menorah came a little booklet explaining the story and celebration of Chanukah, and instructions for prayers to be read and points to discuss as the candles are lit over the eight days of Chanukah.
Although written for Jewish readers and with wonderful whimsical humour, as a Christian I was blessed by and learned from this little book--seeing in the words a deeper meaning than the writer might have imagined.
I've learned that a "mitzvah" is "a divinely beautiful deed." Lighting the candles symbolizes adding more light to the world, adding mitzvahs to your life--not underestimating the power of light. What a beautiful thought.
The booklet says that for a mitzvah, only the best will do. This reminds me not to give God or others a second best gift, only the best that I can do or give of myself or my resources.
In the historic event from which Chanukah stems, a tiny flask of oil, enough for one nights light, was found hidden beneath a floor in the temple in Jerusalem that had been ransacked by the Greeks--however the oil miraculously lasted for eight days.
The lessons from this story were too good not to share:
If something seems impossible, perhaps try a little faith and God may provide a miracle; and--sometimes miracles are hiding under your feet, waiting for you to recognize them.
And lets all add many mitzvahs to our lives!
1 John 1:5 (New International Version)
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.