Today I wrote a reflection for our province website entitled “Hanukkah and Christmas.” The Jewish and Christian celebrations coincide closely this year.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes IV in 167 BC. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ approximately 167 years later.
Both of these feasts are about the Presence of God. For the Jews God was present in the temple in a special way. For Christians God is present in Jesus Christ, who spoke of himself as the temple of God in this world. His presence remains and cannot be destroyed.
Many days, I look out my window at a great church across the street here in Union City that my community had to let go of some years ago. As with many holy places nowadays, we couldn’t keep it going financially.
It seems to me the ancient mysteries of Hanukkah and Christmas constantly repeat themselves over time. Buildings, places, however sacred, rise and fall. Jesus Christ does not rise and fall. The Christmas mystery reminds us of his abiding Presence. He is God with us, Emmanuel, and he always gives us life.
Still, we mourn when buildings go.