The Judeo-Christian traditions are in full celebration mode as we journey towards Hanukkah and Christmas and look forward in hope to 2023. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates the Jewish people’s reclaiming of Jerusalem and the rededication the Second Temple during the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid empire during the 2nd century BCE. It recalls how one-day’s supply of oil, all that remained in the temple, kept its menorah burning while other oil could be found to replace it. It is for this reason the Jewish menorah has eight candles and its celebration lasts eight days.

For Christians, Christmas recalls the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus, God’s decision to enter human history to save it. Jesus was born into poverty and oppression, and in doing so, showed humanity God’s predilection for those who are suffering. Moreover, Christians believe that through Jesus’ life the prophecies of old were fulfilled in the values he lived by and in the humble service he offered to others. In doing so, he demonstrated what it means to live as God would have humanity live and to exhibit the necessary disposition to achieve the salvation God desires for all.

Today, we still live in a world where poverty and oppression overwhelm many, even in our own country. We are called by the One God of creation to witness as human beings to a new world order, offering the gifts of our lives on behalf of all people, regardless of race, religion, the color of one’s skin, sexual identification, and state of life. 

May we have the courage of the great Jewish prophets to speak truth to power, and witness to the love, compassion, and justice of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed and gave his life for. For in doing so, we stand against hatred and shed God’s light on all people so they might know the human dignity God desires for them.

Whether we celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or the goodness of other religious traditions, let us pledge to work for the common good of all in the coming light of the New Year that beckons us forward as people of faith.