Lights

I strung our “holiday” lights last night. Across the ceiling of our living room, they really are beautiful. But they are not actually “holiday” lights. They are in fact Hanukkah and Christmas lights. They are evidence of the season of lights. Why?

I am so deeply tired of the harangue over whether I greet you with “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” in part because I know that those who favor the former do not in fact believe that December 25 celebrates Christ’s Mass — they do not believe in Masses, of any kind, for any one, including Christ! On the other hand, I really am tired of bland, consumerist, homogeneous, undifferentiated “holidays.” How wonderful . . .

So, as I strung my lights I was actually praying about the “Festival of Lights”; about light when I have no reason to expect light or hope for light; when light appears at that moment I needed it most, but anticipated it least. Surely this was the moment when our community was threatened most by the dominant Roman occupation; when our independence and freedom to be a community was least secure. At that very moment, oil that should have lasted less than a night, less than an hour, suddenly shed light that lasted an eternity. We celebrate it today. This is our Hanukkah.

But I was also praying as I strung our lights of a different, not unrelated, moment. It is the same Roman occupation, three centuries later. I am hoping for a Messiah, for a light, for a festival of lights. A child is born in Palestine; born to Palestinian Jews. It is the question all of us ask when our children our born. Is she the one? Is he the one?

For me, an Episcopalian, these two questions — one Jewish, one Christian — are not separate. My mother was Jewish (actually a Unitarian). I am Christian.

But I am now praying about the lights. I see them shining now above my living room. They tell me that the Roman occupation will end. They tell me that the suffering of our people will end. The oil is sufficient. The lights will not be extinguished.

Lights. Real lights. Real communities. Real struggles. Real futures. Real lights.

“Merry Christmas?” “Happy Holidays?” Bah Humbug. Its all the same to me.

But lights. Real lights. Real emancipation. Real liberation. I am stringing lights in my living room. I am praying for real liberation. I am praying that the oil will be sufficient, that the lamps will remain lit, that Christ’s Mass will not be for nothing.

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