“Then God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3,4)
One look at the nebulae swirling in outer space and our mind expands from the majesty of light in the vast darkness. Light is good stuff. Even God said so. Einstein dug it too. Light is so essential that it’s no wonder it showed up early in the creation schedule. I looked at a few Google references to learn what light is, but it’s all very technical. We all know what it does. If we’ve been blessed with sight, we depend on light to make things visible in the physical realm. That sounds relevant in the spiritual realm too.
“In your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
Last night I watched the moon reflecting the light of the sun. It was about 2/3 full and really bright against the night sky. Talking with a friend, drinking hot mocha on one of Israel’s first cool fall evenings, the parallel with our lives was so clear to me. The moon has no light of its own. The sun, at an approximate distance of 93 million miles is the sole source of its light. But, that’s also true of the earth. The sun is our source of light too. This sentence begs for a word play … is there anymore apt homonym pairing in the English language than Son/Sun?
We Are the Moon, He is the Son
“I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
This is a definitive declaration by Yeshua. I agree with Him. I can say, without hesitation, that until He came into my life, I was in darkness. I had no effective understanding of life’s meaning, its structure or its purpose. As a blind man, I groped for the next step, not knowing where it would lead.
We are like the moon. We have no light of our own, only what we can reflect of the Source of light who:
“called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1Peter 2:9) Once we turn, away from obsessing with ourselves, to behold Him, we are illuminated by His eternal light. “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
So, what’s this got to do with Chanukah? Called the Festival of Lights, Chanukah recalls the triumph of light over darkness in the 2nd century BCE, when Israel was oppressed by a Greek-Syrian cartel that sought to rid Israel of all Jewish religion and culture. The good guys, Israeli fighters led by a family called the Maccabees, were finally able (against ridiculous odds), to recapture the Temple in Jerusalem and re-light the lampstand, so often mentioned in Torah as a prime piece of holy equipment. Its seven branches could be said to reflect the seven-fold Spirit of God mentioned by Isaiah (See, Isaiah 11:2) and by John in the early chapters of Revelation.
From Compromise to Courage
The temple rededication happened in winter, the coldest, darkest time of the year. Days are short. The sun leaves early, arrives late. It was also a dark time in Israel’s history. The Maccabees’ Chanukah victory brought Israel out of a dark time of oppression from the outside and compromise on the inside. Sound familiar? Today’s Israel is a similar combination of external threat and internal corruption. A common word used to characterize the Chanukah warriors is courage. Courage is stepping into the light and bearing it through the dismaying circumstances we find ourselves in.
“You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14,16)
“The Spirit of man is in the candle of the Lord …” (Proverbs 20:27)
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
What does it mean to walk in the light? Light exposes that which is hidden by darkness. When I walk in the light I’m exposed for others to see. I can’t hide behind the posturing that attempts to cover up who I really am. Walking in the light is being real. It’s being open before God and man. Walking in the light is also freedom, since I no longer have to pretend, hide or fake my way through. It’s being more like a child, which is why Yeshua said,
“Unless you turn and become as little children you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)
Lighting the Menorah in Our Temple
Chanukah is the word for dedication in Hebrew. We use it in everyday speech when referring to a house warming. It’s called chanukat-bayit. The parallel is charming and helpful. The driving core behind celebrating Chanukah is re-dedication. The Macabees re-dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, as the house of worship, the place where the God of Israel accepted sacrifices for the cleansing of hearts. This is more than a fun festival of candles and dreidels and potato pancakes and jelly donuts (sufganiot in Israel). It is an opportunity to identify our body – our life – as the home of God’s Spirit. We are His temple and He wants to light a bright candlestick (chanukiah/menorah) in us for all to see.
It’s dark out there in the world these days. There’s a lot of terror and tragedy. Greed, lust and hatred forge wicked chains that hold multitudes in bondage and send many into an even bleaker eternity. When we add the natural disasters: earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, it becomes darker still. Despite the gloom we remember this good news:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men … that was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:4,9).
I love light. I love the reality of sight. One of life’s greatest satisfactions is to behold visual beauty. I love going to the sea and just looking out at its vastness, its blueness, and its waves. My wife is a gifted painter. It amazes and pleases me deeply to see the works she creates out of color and form. One of her paintings shows a young couple under the wedding chupah. The groom’s prayer shawl is draped over his bride and the white of the tallit is illuminated as if light is coming from behind. Light is coming through the painting. Are we like that? Is our life a work of art in the hands of the Light-Maker? Is His light shining through us? He wants to display us, imperfect as we are, to say, “Look, I am shining through this one. This person is my home, my temple. They are not hiding. You can trust them to find the Light in this world’s darkness.”
“… Then God said, ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT.'”