Advent 2014 – Devotion 17

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. John 10:22 NRSV

This verse from the gospel of John tells us that Jesus was observing the Feast of the Dedication. This is a Jewish festival to honor the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple had been defiled under the rule of the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes who was ruler from 175-163 BCE. The temple was used for pagan worship and sacrifices. In the 160’s the Jews mounted a revolt to regain control of the temple so that they could resume practicing their religion. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the temple was reclaimed. It was then purified and a new altar was built. This historic event was commemorated every year by the Jewish people in the Feast of Dedication. The celebration included palm branches being carried around the temple, the singing of Psalms, and the lighting of candles, one a day for 8 days. This festival is the only one connected to a specific, documented historical event. We know this celebration as Hanukkah. So from the gospels we learn that Jesus, as an observant Jew, celebrated the Hanukkah, just as Jews are doing around the world this week. One of the scriptures read at Hanukkah is Zechariah 4:6: “. . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the God of hosts.”

The holy festival of Hanukkah is a time of rededication for Jews. In this Advent season, we, as Christians, prepare to rededicate ourselves to the way of Jesus. We remind ourselves of all that he means to us and to the world. And we recommit ourselves to following him. So Jews and Christians together are in a season of dedication.

The story of festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) invites us to rededicate ourselves to:
Religious freedom for all peoples.
Practicing our religious faith through worship and other observance. For Jesus, there was no “spiritual but not religious”!
Eliminating anti-Semitism from ourselves, our society, and the world.
Peace. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit.”

For reflection: How have you seen anti-Semitism expressed? How can you work to change such attitudes in yourself, in others, and in society?

Prayer: We are grateful for the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to our faith, to letting God’s light shine through us, and to following in the way of Jesus. May we always remember that the central figure of our beloved Christianity was a poor, Palestinian Jew. Amen.

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