We welcome the season Advent in a BIG way!
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Pastor Daryl Thul
Hanukkah starts this Sunday and continues for eight days. It celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem in the Year 165 BC.
The Nation of Israel had been a vassal State of the Greek Empire for generations.
Jerusalem was located between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic regions of Alexander the Great’s reign, regions that were governed by their own kings after the conqueror’s death.
Eventually they fought one another, each claiming Israel as a war prize.
Enter the Year 168 BC.
King Antiochus IV and his forces invade and hold Egypt - and the Greek King attempts to shut down Judaism completely.
He outlaws Jewish religious practices, installs a statue of the God Zeus in the Temple and sacrifices pigs on the altar in the Holy of Holies. Yes, he was pretty horrible.
A Rural Jewish Priest named Mattathias Maccabee initiated and his sons organized an armed revolt using guerrilla warfare tactics against the occupying Greek Soldiers that began in 167 BC. The forces withdrew in 165 BC and that set the stage for the re-dedication of the Temple and the restoration of freedom to worship God.
The re-dedication wasn’t simply a prayer and a meal. It was an elaborate ritual and ended up requiring a miracle - hence the candle icon associated with Hanukkah.
The Maccabees found a single small jug of holy oil that wasn’t uncontaminated. It held enough to light the Menorah for one day. The flame continued burning strong on that little bit of oil for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured.
I’m a Lutheran Pastor and hopefully I’m telling the story close enough for you to have a better idea of the importance of this celebration for our Jewish friends.
Well maybe this time of year.
The trees are spectacularly beautiful this season.
The season of Advent will carry us all the way through Christmas Eve. But Advent is much more than just the four-week run-up to Christmas.
In the church calendar, Advent is a period meant to be filled with expectant waiting. We are waiting, together as a church, for something amazing that we know is coming – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World.
Most of us are no strangers to waiting. We wait for all sorts of things, both wonderful and painful. It starts at a young age, when we wait to be old enough to do X, Y, and Z – stay up later, drive, go out with friends on our own.
For me, one of the big one was having a phone in my room (yes, it was a landline). I vividly remember the growing anticipation as my tenth birthday drew nearer, the day I would be allowed such a luxury.
As we get older, we wait for different things – finding a life partner, finding employment, starting a family, having grandchildren, retiring.
Some of the things we wait for are not so joyful, whether it be a medical diagnosis, a layoff we know is coming, or the death of a loved one whose time is limited. Whatever the case may be, whatever change or outcome we look toward, often it is the waiting itself that is the hardest part.
As God’s people, our situation usually looks no different than anyone else’s. On the whole, we have a long history of waiting, since God tends to do things in God’s own time. We might look at our individual lives or look at the world around us, and think, “Come on, God, what are you waiting for?? Do something!”
Well, the good news is God has already done something through his Son Jesus. We live as forgiven and claimed children of God precisely because of what God has already done.
Like kids who can’t sleep as they wait for Christmas morning, during advent, we wait to celebrate this wonderful thing that God has already accomplished. But at the same time, we wait in earnest for the things that God is still doing in our lives, the things that God hasn’t finished just yet.
Waiting is the hardest part.
It’s no coincidence that the four weeks of Advent coincide with some of the darkest days of winter. Just as the sun begins to shine a little more each day, we get to celebrate the light of world coming to dwell with us as a human man.
We will be walking through these days together with a new theme in worship each week: Waiting, Preparing, Wondering, and Praising. We also have two different Advent devotionals available for anyone who might want to spend daily time in prayer and reflection during this time of waiting.
We travel this road together, in all its joy and even its sorrow. May you have a blessed Advent season and a very Merry Christmas.