Monthly Archives: December 2023

Christmas and Hanukkah 2023

On an early-morning, 3-mile walk around our neighborhood with my wife, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. Soon, our conversation turned to soul care — reading the Bible habitually, praying, staying in a community of faith — and abiding in the Light.

“Soul care” seems to be jumping out to me everywhere. Ron, my neighbor, came into the yard yesterday evening, catching me putting the last touches on our Christmas angel, and he was there for the lighting ceremony just as the sun was setting and Hanukkah was beginning. While enjoying a beautiful moment and sunset, our conversation turned to “soul care” — the habits, disciplines, and rhythms of the Christian faith and subsequent peace.

Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word for consecration. Hanukkah, according to dictionary.com is “A Jewish festival lasting eight days, celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians [168 BC] under Antiochus IV, characterized chiefly by the lighting of the menorah on each night of the festival.” Sometimes spelled Chanukah, it is also called the Feast of Dedication or the Feast of Lights.

Bethlehem Light

On our morning walk, we also discussed that “people believe what they want to believe.” When it comes to Bethlehem, can you really overlook such a carefully placed puzzle piece? You can if your heart doesn’t want to know, see, or believe.

On the same note, if you do want to believe there is a God who cares, Who is there, and always does what He says from generation to generation, then pause at Bethlehem. Open your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul, your spirit, and peer in wonder at a humble Baby and the very heart of your Creator God.

The sky was full of light that night! Happy Hanukkah.

Bethlehem and Hanukkah

What do these two have in common? Other than both will begin on the same day December 25, 2024 — light! Those living in darkness will see a great light in Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:14-15). A prophet, priest, and King is born in Bethlehem, Judah, as predicted by the prophet Micah (5:2). Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” is a fitting beginning for Jesus, who would call himself the “bread of life.” The Lion of Judah, the Son of David, was born in the same town David was, 1000 years earlier. Seems like too big a coincidence, doesn’t it?

The religious (those trusting in their own knowledge and works) didn’t see it. Check for yourself. Does any prophet come from Nazareth? (John 7:52). Who else doesn’t see? And who does? That’s a fascinating study within itself as you follow Jesus’ life and ministry on the pages of the Gospels.

It’s by invitation only! But the guest list is immense, in keeping with the wealth and goodwill of the Host. There is an RSVP stated or implied, and that’s our only responsibility, apparently. 

Please, stop what you’re doing. Put worldly cares and your to-do list aside. Enter into the joy of the Lord, where there is feasting without strife and rest — where there is true life.

Take care of your soul. Start living your faith or keeping your faith in an ever-increasing and deepening fashion. There dwells light and life — love and joy.

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But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity
” (Micah 5:2).

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:1-2).

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (John 6:35).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).