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Friday, December 19, 2008


2008's winter solstice occurs at 7:04 a.m. EST this Sunday, December 21, when the North Pole is at its furthest point of tilt away from the sun.

If you prefer poetic over scientific ...

At dawn this Lord's day, light will increase and darkness will retreat as days grow longer and nights become shorter.

Numerous pagan religions celebrate the date when darkness climaxes in the Northern Hemisphere. It is noteworthy that while pagans celebrate darkness, Jewish and Christian holidays both celebrate light.

Sunday evening marks the beginning of the Festival of Lights. Jews celebrate Hanukkah (or Chanukah, also called the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22) on the 25th of Kislev (about four days before a December new moon), which this year occurs in Israel within a scant couple of hours of the solstice—an extremely rare concurrence.

Hanukkah commemorates when the Jews in 165 BC successfully rebelled against the Greek empire for its prohibition to practice Judaism and desecration of the Jerusalem temple. When ancient Jews rededicated the cleansed temple, they had one day's oil for the temple lamp, but the lamp miraculously burned for eight days until they obtained more oil.

On Wednesday evening, across the globe life and business as usual will screech to a halt while Christians and non-Christians alike commemorate the birth of Christ. Jesus' birth date is unknown, but was not likely a winter month, when shepherds didn't sleep in open fields. Many think Jesus was born at the Feast of Sukkoth, or Booths, in early autumn. A December date for the Christmas holiday is the Roman church's alternative to (or consolidation with) pagan celebration of the solstice.

Regardless of any argument against Christmas for inaccurate date or pagan correlation, God's gift of Jesus is certainly cause for celebration of light. Matthew highlights Jesus' appearance as fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy: "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16 NIV) When the apostle John in his Gospel describes God becoming flesh to dwell with us, he speaks of Jesus as "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." (John 1:9 NKJV) And Jesus says of Himself, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12 NKJV)

The time when darkness reigns is well suited to celebrating both Jesus coming as Light, and the temple light which once burned miraculously in Jerusalem. Hanukkah and Christmas will even be celebrated together on December 25th, 2016—a treat (or for some, conflict) happening about three times a century.

These two celebrations also converge every year, every day. Jesus tells us we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Victorious over the oppressive enemy through bloodshed, we are now the temples of His Holy Spirit, the place where God's presence and light dwell, miraculously illuminating a very dark world.

Feedback invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2008, Anne Lang Bundy

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