What are your Christmas traditions? Perhaps you tell stories about people who cannot be with you, for whatever reason. Maybe you go to church to hear the story of Christmas. Perhaps you decorate your house with lights to pierce the darkness. Maybe you send an annual Christmas letter.
As I've grown older, I've realized that my family doesn't have many Christmas traditions, but it does feel like there's something missing if we don't have a tree, with soothing lights and sparkly ornaments. This year, Syed and I finally have a home big enough for a tree, and we went and bought an ornament together to remember our first Christmas in Ithaca. Every time the lights of our tree are lit, it makes me feel a bit closer to my family and more at home here in Ithaca.
Lighting the Advent candles also makes me feel more connected to the season - especially now that I'm back in the Northeast, where the days are very short and any little bit of light is welcome! At our Advent Monday night services, we turned the chapel into a walkable Advent wreath, with prayer stations at each candle.
Today is the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of the miracle of light - when the oil lasted long enough to provide light for 8 days. And starting December 26, many will celebrate Kwanzaa with 7 candles to represent 7 foundational African values.
In his article "From Darkness to Light: Entering Holy Time," Eitan Fishbane writes that the true meaning of Hannukah is "to awaken light and redemption from within our darkest places, both as individuals and as a community. To break through the barriers and the hardships that hold us back. To realize that the yearning of our heart and the force of our intention can bring about the miracle of transformation."
A few weeks ago, I invited you to join me in resting in hope, while darkness does its work. Now, as we look toward Christmas, I hope we can all rejoice in the miracle of light as we seek to follow the Light of the World. May we all, together, "awaken light and redemption from within our darkest places, both as individuals and as a community." I hope to see you at our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services, and if you are traveling, may you have safe travels and a joyous Christmas.