Thursday, December 17, 2015

42342 :: The Source of Light

Guest Blog courtesy of Bonnie Hyden
I'd like for you all to humor me a moment. What I'm going to say could be difficult for many to read. It might even anger some. But hear me out.
The days for Hanukkah and Christmas are approaching. And it seems there has come a sort of battle between the two. I'm going to try very hard to not put my personal opinion in this but to point to facts and Scripture. On the surface, the two holidays could be seen as "holy days". They both contain light. Both in a dark and cold time of year. Who wouldn't want to have light during this time? Who wouldn't want to have a bit of cheer to get us through the winter months? But I would ask the question: what is the source of that light?
If we are brave enough to look as far as we can into the source of Christmas, we will find that "Jesus" is not the reason for the season. He was an addition made in order to make the day acceptable in the Christian realm. This is not Christendom's redemption of a day...because it was never a day that belonged to that Kingdom. There is nowhere in Scripture that God tells us to remember the birth of our Savior. Yeah, I know...it seems like it would be a very good day to remember and celebrate...but God's thoughts are above my thoughts so since He never tells me to go there...I must then surmise He has a good reason for that. We're not even overtly told when Yeshua was born. We can deduce from certain texts...but God does not go out of His Way to make this information known to us. And so, "we" insisted on doing it anyhow. We say that we love our Messiah so very much we will call a day his birthday and we will light up that day...a day that was borrowed from those who served other gods. It was their light that lit this day before. But now we say it is the light of God.
Then we have Hanukkah (Chanukkah or whatever spelling you choose.) A day when mostly Jews around the world begin to light menorahs...one candle at a time...in honor of a reported miracle that took place thousands of years ago. Did the miracle of one day's worth of oil that burned for 8 days really occur? We really don't know for sure. But...there's a different question to ask here:
Are all fires (lights) created equal?
To borrow from Mr. Fohrman of AlephBeta, "Some fires are fueled by oil and wicks. Some are not. When there's only one day's worth of oil and the fire continues to burn and burn and burn...it means the oil wasn't the fuel for the fire. The fire was coming from somewhere else. The source for the light of Hanukkah isn't terrestrial oil...it's transcendent God."
The source of Christmas is not God...the source is "gods". The source of Hanukkah is in the lesson that in the dark times...the times when it seems we are unimaginably outnumbered...the times when all we can do is to be still before our God and let HIM win the battle...and He does...and then all we can do is praise Him and bask in ...HIS LIGHT! It's happened over and over and over in Scripture...
  • Israel's deliverance from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus.
  • Israel's deliverance from Palestine in 1 Samuel 13 & 14.
  • Israel's deliverance from Greece in the Book of Maccabees.

And why would God repeat these stories over and over? Why is it so important for us to see this light? Because these stories will be repeated again. We NEED to know that there will be dark times again. We need to know there will be a ruler who will not remember the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There will be a ruler who will attempt to blot out God's People in unthinkable ways! There will be a ruler who will attempt to change God's Times and His Ways. If you stop for just a moment...you can see it starting to take place now. You can see the dark clouds gathering and the light is getting dimmer. But...in our Heavenly Father's love and mercy...He points us back to other dark times and He says, "See these times? See these men? I want you to learn from these. I was there...I will be with you. These were My battles then...these are My battles now. They were My victories then...the victories will be Mine now. BUT...you need to know I am The Only Source of True Light. When all other lights lead you down the wrong path and they eventually go out...MY Light will continue to burn...to show You that I am always there."
All I ask of everyone reading this is that you check the source of the light of the day you celebrate. Not what you've been told is the source of your light. The Greeks told Israel that Antiochus was the source of their light...or Zeus was the source of their light...and some of Israel believed that lie. The Maccabee family, however, held firmly to the belief that God...YHVH Almighty was, is and always will be the ONLY True Source of Light. And God rewarded them with a miraculous victory...and maybe even possibly...a miraculous miracle of a light burning from the Menorah for 8 days. But after that one day's worth of oil was used up...earthly oil was no longer the source. God was The Source.
I will light the Hanukkah candles this year...that center candle especially...remembering that my Savior...my Messiah...the Suffering Servant...is the Source of my Light. And from that center light...all the other candles are lit. There is no other Source beside Yeshua Messiah. That Light will conquer all. That Light will come again as the Conquering King!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
So...after these two holidays are passed...which light is more apt to continue burning? The one who has the Everlasting Father and the King of Kings...The Creator as it's Source.
What is the source of our light in this season?


Friday, December 4, 2015

42341: The Reason for the Season

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was a homeschool Mom, and in a sense, it was. In 1986, my youngest started Kindergarten, and our family started on the journey of DIY Education. And that in itself is a tale for another day, but it is the preface to my journey away from celebrating Christmas.

I was sold on the idea of "Unit Studies", and what better way to incorporate this most beloved of traditions into our curriculum than to study the traditions of other cultures during this time of year? Remember, this was 12 years before Google was at our fingertips, Wikipedia was not going to be founded for another 15 years, and all we had to rely on was the library and our World Book Encyclopedia.

We had a lot of fun that year, putting out our shoes for Saint Nicholas Day, baking Santa Lucia buns, learning new songs, trying new recipes; we even put water and hay out for the wise men's camels on Epiphany. (Boy, were those camels messy!)

Why, we even studied about non-Christian traditions, and that my friends, is when I first learned that Hanukkah was more than the Jewish alternative to Christmas. It was much, much more! In fact, as we learned about the history of Hanukkah, I found myself saying to my husband, "I don't know why ALL believers don't celebrate this holiday! It's about standing up to persecution and injustice in the face of tyranny and oppression. Isn't that what we are called to do in our faith walk?"

Now, you have to understand that, for our family, Christmas really was about Christ. We did not go overboard into debt to buy gifts, we read the Nativity story aloud as a family, we did the advent wreath and prepared our hearts for His coming... ours was no pagan celebration of the sun. We really did celebrate Christ's birth, down to the birthday cake. We knew that the date was symbolic, that Christ was not really born in December. But we didn't think it mattered. We thought that as long as we were "keeping Christ in Christmas", God knew the intentions of our heart and honored us for honoring Him.

So, we added Hanukkah into our winter tradition, and exchanged our gifts on Saint Nicholas Day, so as to keep Christmas about Christ, and I patted myself on the back that I had one up on these people who got sucked into the commercialism and seasonal insanity that we call "the most wonderful time of the year."

But I have discovered that once I know the truth of a thing, I cannot un-know it. And that is how it has evolved over the years, as my naturally inquiring mind wants to learn more about the heart of a thing, I have gradually become convinced that just because we have honorable intentions, if we are in opposition to what God has actually asked us to do, then we have a dilemma. Do we continue to do things "as we have always done them", or do we find out if God has a better plan? I think you can guess the answer to that one.

The problem comes when we do not read all of the Bible; somehow we like to believe that everything in the front of the book does not apply to us. So, in Deuteronomy 12: 30, when God says, "be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates." we just gloss right over that: "Well, He is talking to Israel. I'm not Jewish. That doesn't apply to me... So what if Christmas was originally a pagan celebration? I'm not worshiping false gods."

Oops. Next I find out that "Israel" really means everyone who is a true worshiper of Yahweh. So, over the years the truth has continued to chip away at the layers of "harmless traditions" that have kept me from understanding how He really wants me to worship Him.

Since this is just one more step in my life/faith journey, I want to be very careful to only walk in the way I am being directed and not presume to take over the reins and direct my own path. Where I am now gives me no right to criticize another person for where they are in their own walk. I didn't get here overnight; it has taken me half of my life to get this far. One of the more important lessons I have learned along the way is speaking the truth without love makes me nothing more than a clanging cymbal... and who wants to listen to that? If I can't extend the same grace to others as He has extended to me, then I haven't learned much.