by ProfDave, ©2022
(Dec. 23, 2022) — Hanukkah/Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, 165 BC/BCE. Jewish people celebrate publicly with lights – the Menorah – in their windows as a witness to the world that God lives. (Christians also put lights in their windows this time of year – with similar meaning!) As one Rabbi on the internet put it, “There certainly has never been a time when the message of the Chanukah lights has been more needed by societies that so thirst for meaning and spirituality.” Amen!
Seen any Menorahs lately? Each one you see is proof of the existence of G*d – a Sovereign Supreme Being whose character is revealed in the Bible [note I’m using the Jewish spelling – the Name is so holy that you must never speak it or write it unless you change your pen and take a bath – hard to do on a computer]. I’m not a philosopher, astrophysicist, or paleontologist, but I am a historian. The existence of Israel – or just one Jewish home – is historical proof positive! How many times have they been exterminated? How many times have they been disbursed, absorbed, and assimilated? For 5,000+ years the world has tried to chew them up and digest them. The existence of Israel is also proof positive of the grace and mercy of G*d. If you read the Bible, you know they’ve given G*d a hard time: at least three times the curses of Deuteronomy 28 have come upon them (does the Holocaust count?), but still He preserved a Remnant. So there is hope for us, too!
Chanukah is about the reality of the Transcendent G*d. Christmas is about the imminence of G*d, “a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us).” Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23. G*d with us! Do we have any idea what that means? The Eternal, the Holy One, JHWH, the I-AM, the Logos, the WORD became flesh and camped among us. The Eternal became mortal. The Infinite became finite – became a fetus. Became human – making human life sacred in a whole new way. God takes on human form in the Torah to speak to Abraham – a man who, when he opened his mouth, God spoke. But this was different. God born at Christmas. The WORD learning to speak. The author of the Bible learning Torah. The Holy One had a Bar Mitzvah, learned a trade. The sinless one was baptized. We nailed Him to a cross – and He let us do it! Then the immortal died. But that’s not the end. In Him, the mortal rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of G*d in heaven! “G*d was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” G*d with us!
I talked with Him this morning! Indeed, as Lewis, Calvin and Browning write [Breakpoint, 12/19/22], the whole world is full of Him – the roar of the wind, the drip of the rain, the swaying trees and the birds at the feeder all speak to me of Him. His presence rolls over me in waves as I read Psalm 95. Don’t get me wrong, I am no super-saint or mystic, but when an ordinary, prosaic soul invites Him in, He comes! Thanks to Christmas, G*d is with us! “To those who receive Him [the eternal Word who became flesh], to them He gave the right to become sons and daughters of G*d” (John 1). Won’t you receive Him?
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.