Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and So Many Reasons for Gratitude

Today we see something we're not likely to see for another 80,000 years:  the intersection of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.  Several times a century, they're likely to be in the same week, but almost never on the same day.

How should we celebrate?  We could rethink our holiday foods, as this piece on NPR suggests.  Those of us who are non-Jews could scoff and say, "Who cares?  It's not our holiday."

But many Christians have a more ecumenical mindset, and it's an interesting time to think about the holiday of Hanukkah and what it might teach us.  You may or may not remember that this Jewish holiday celebrates the cleansing and dedication of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees; they had enough oil to burn for 1 day, but it burned for 8.

As with many ancient holidays, we could spend lots of time talking about what really happened and what it signified.  I will leave that to others.

In many ways, this holiday has more in common with Thanksgiving than with Christmas, the holiday that most Christians link it to.  Thanksgiving is also a holiday of abundance.  Those of us who are spiritual/religious often see the holiday as a time to give thanks to a God who gives us more than we need.  Those of us who aren't too far removed from our agricultural roots can probably remember stories of times when the food stretched further than it should have, when there was enough for everyone and leftovers for later.

We can also celebrate the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah nexus by thinking about religious freedom.  It's good to remember that those Pilgrims left England in search of a place where they could worship as they liked.  And yes, I will admit that those early colonists who were so eager for religious freedom were quick to deny it to others.  But still, it doesn't hurt to celebrate the ideal.

We live in a nation where we can celebrate Diwali and then it's on to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.  If we're Muslim, we're free to observe Ramadan.  If we're of a religious faith that's less common, we're likely to find acceptance of a sort.

Sure, there might be a crazed gunman here and there to make us debate how much religious liberty we really have.  It's always been this way in this nation, at least since the European colonists arrived.  I imagine that the Native Americans had similar conversations about liberty and how much freedom a society could tolerate.  It's a question that most societies have wrestled with.

On Thanksgiving, let us celebrate our abundance.  Let us remember those who don't experience this abundance and let us share.  Let us continue to work to create a society where we have religious freedom and tolerance in ever greater abundance.  Let us pause to remember the good work that has been done and to fortify ourselves for the work yet to do.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea that Hanukkah is the celebration of a military victory? Why would you celebrate that?

Anonymous said...

God Wrote A Book.

please watch a sermon online at: (if this link doesn't work)

go to teaching and then hit the online sermon

You Are Loved