How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving + Hanukkah

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving! I know it’s over, but special days like that linger in our thoughts longer than tasty leftovers do in our fridge. I didn’t do a proper Thanksgiving post last week, nor did I comment on Hanukkah, which began on Thanksgiving eve. Jewish days begin in the evening, so the first day of Hanukkah commenced with the setting of the sun last Wednesday. This convergence is once in a lifetime. The last time it happened, since Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday, was 1888; the next time will be about 79,000 years in the future. I do wonder how this could happen twice within 130 years and then never again for 79,000 years, but that’s what they say.

This convergence brought a connection to my attention, one that I never saw in all my years of celebrating both. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah – how could they relate? One is American and Christian, one is Jewish. Thanksgiving is distinctly associated with fall, Hanukkah is distinctly associated with winter. (That they overlapped this year was very strange – Hanukkah was about the earliest it could be and Thanksgiving was about the latest.) One was birthed in 1621 CE, one in 165 BCE. One focuses on thankfulness, one on dedication. But with all of these differences, there is a similarity: that of the people’s hearts.

The Pilgrims separated from the established Church of England in order to worship God in a more biblical manner. They were so devoted to God, He encompassed their lives so much, that they left their country and laid down earthly security to settle a new country where they could build up His Kingdom in the way that they weren’t allowed to in England. They gave up their all to serve God. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have what we have today – our America.

Likewise the Maccabees of the Hanukkah story took a stand and separated from the Greek culture that was overwhelming the biblical faith. They were so devoted to God that they refused to assimilate and instead fought to retake their country and their Temple, God’s Kingdom, laying down their lives in the struggle. They gave up their all to serve God. Yeshua hadn’t yet come, and although God would have raised up another deliverance to keep His chosen people intact so that He could come, the Maccabees and their followers are still inspiring because they resolved to be that deliverance.

The example of these two people groups gives me a lot to ponder. It makes me ask: Am I laying down my life in such a way? Am I dying to myself and saying, “Only You, my God”? Am I determined to let nothing separate me from the Lord? Am I being the “City on the Hill” that describes both groups?

This is a blessed and dynamic time of year where these two celebrations converge like a mighty river, causing their truths to flood our lives.

What are your thoughts?

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