Sunday Dec. 18, 2022
I grew up in a large church in a large metropolitan area. The associate minister at our church had a beautiful voice. And in addition to serving as the associate pastor at this large UCC church, he was the cantor for the services at the large Jewish temple near by. Friday nights he was leading worship at the temple. Sunday mornings he was leading worship at our church. At the church we thought this was wonderful. We were glad that he got to share his wonderful gift with others. The temple and the church had Thanksgiving services together each November. I didn’t know that there was a troubled relationship between Christians and Jews until much later in my life.
When I found out more about the age old tensions and conflicts between Christians and Jews, it mystified me. And anti Semitism among Christians still mystifies me now. Jesus was Jewish. Period. He never was in a church. He never read a gospel. There wasn’t a cross hanging around his neck. He was hung on a cross. Jesus was Jewish through and through. And according to the gospels, he was a devout Jew, not just a cultural Jew. He went to the Temple. He went to the synagogue. He probably knew Hebrew. He observed the high holy days. All of it.
Today the Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins at sundown. This would have been an important observance for Jesus. It is the festival of lights.
As Christians we give thanks that the light of Christ still shines and that it exposes the sin and evil of anti Semitism. The light of Christ shines with universal, unconditional love. This is our season of light and that light burns bias, prejudice, and hatred to ash.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent as you light the four Advent candles of your Advent wreath, remember our Jewish friends who also starting a candle-lighting observance tonight.
We give thanks for the festival of Hanukkah and the joy and hope that it brings to our Jewish sisters and brothers and to the world. Amen.