With Thanksgiving behind us the winter holiday season is moving into full swing. This year, with the “late” Jewish calendar, our Hanukkah festivities are pretty much concurrent with Christmas, winter break, vacations, etc. While there is no question that Hanukkah is the most misunderstood, taken out of context, and Americanized holiday, I am not sure it really matters any more to many folks; we have bigger problems to deal with in our world, right? But I so wish it did.
As we learned at a recent Tuesday morning session, a lot of the Jewish calendar is pagan celebration in disguise. And at springtime and the winter solstice the Christian calendar tracks right along with us. The miracle of the oil and the birth of Jesus at the end of December are equally mythic, and equally young. The historical story that created Hanukkah wasn’t until the 2nd century BCE with the addition of lights a century or two later and the current date of Christmas wasn’t set until the fourth century CE. These holidays, and the pagan festivals they are based on, bring light into the darkness of this time of year.
What we have lost along the way, however, is the experience of the darkness. How can one truly appreciate light if there is nothing but light along the way? As Wendell Berry so eloquently wrote:
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
I was moved by this recent NYT piece about Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, acknowledging the need to experience the darkness before the light. The ideas and concerns of this writer will resonate with many of you and echo many of our own challenges of this time of year.
And of course, we will bring light to the hungry and homeless in MKE again this year. Please see below for a new model of the Tikkun Ha’Ir Gifts for the Homeless program, through which we will provide cheer to 22 infants and their parents. AND we will be providing Christmas dinner at the St. Vincent DePaul south meal site – look for details and sign up sheet next week!