I am sitting down to write this column on the last night of Chanukah, all eight candles with their helper candle are glowing from a lovely antique chanukiah on our kitchen island. They shine out into our neighborhood. Their glow reflected across the foot-deep snow, they are visible to the houses behind us.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi in the United Kingdom, noted a few days ago that “The Chanukah candles used to be lit outside the front door. It was only fear of persecution that took the Chanukah candles back inside. Chanukah candles are the light Judaism brings to the world when we are unafraid to announce our identity in public, live by our principles and fight, if necessary, for our freedom. When we live as Jews in public, we bring the light of hope to others.”
This morning in our service, we lighted the first two candles of the Advent wreath – the candles of Hope and Peace. And as Christians read and reenact the Nativity story on or near Christmas, part of that story is the angels’ proclamation in the night sky, “Peace, goodwill to all!” And, yes, part of the story is about the magi keeping what they have seen secret from King Herod because they feared the consequences. But peace? Peace! is a meaningful, transformational message only when it is proclaimed far and wide, when it is struggled for, when we refuse to be satisfied with inner feelings of peace, when we act to make that peace a reality for all the world.
Similarly, the long nights of Yule, at the Winter Solstice, mark a turning from the inclination in the season’s darkness to gather indoors, around a burning log. They turn us toward the increasing hope for fertility and productive activity in the increasing light. It is the light’s growth everywhere in our hemisphere that gives it its power. Brighid’s flame, like the flame of the new light, pierces darkness of spirit and mind, while the Dagda’s cauldron assures that Nature will always provide for all her children.
In this season, we focus our attention on the hearth, the chanukiah, the Advent wreath. As we turn our focus to that inner world of spirit and close relationships, may we show the whole world our cause for hope! Let us join our hands in commitment to bring peace to the whole world! Let us be proud to show the world who we are and what we stand for, that the planet may truly be transformed by our care!
Peace on Earth! Goodwill to all!
And may the Blessings of this season be yours!