Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Very Merry Christmas And Happy Hanukkah

Today's twin Winter holidays, which have great a following among most in the Christian or Jewush communities are a very fine day to visit loved ones or to exchange gifts. Some may even spend the day serving meals at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.

While Christmas may lack the geniune historical roots to be considered a legitimate Christian holiday, and was only officially first recognized in the U.S. in 1890 in Alabama as a legitimate holiday, it has nonetheless become an important holiday to many in the mainstream Christian community. Although the pagan roots of the holiday were born in sun worship, where early pagans believed their prayers to the sun were honored as the days gradually grew longer after December 25, which was believed to mark the rebirth of the sun. In the third century, when Roman Emporer, Constatine become the first Roman ruler to become a Christian, he marched an army through a river and Baptized these soldiers as "Christians" although few were actually converts to the faith at the time. This gradually caused many pagan traditions to continue to be practiced, but with new Christian meanings added to continue the practices. Christmas grew from historical traditions of this sort.

But despite, these historical roots that lack a geniune history in the Christian faith. And the fact that Christmas was born in worship of the sun, not the "son". It is still an important holiday to renew friendships, be very kind to others, and share blessings or gifts with one another.

Hanukkah has a far stronger religious and historical background. The Hellenist Syrians had conquered the MidEast Jewish kingdom, and forced worship of the Greek gods. The main Jewish temple was defiled and turned into a house of Zeus worship. When some Greek soldiers attempted to force a Jewish High Priest, mattathias to eat pork, Mattathias turned a sword on the Greek soldiers and the roots of the Jewish rebellion to retake their empire from Greek rule and oppression against the practice of their faith. Mattathias died about one year into the Jewish rebellion, but after three years of combat, the son of Mattathias was able to lead far smaller and far less well equipped forces to defeat the farmore powerful Greek army.

When the main Jewish temple was returned to Jewish control, many of the sacred and holy temple objects were missing or damaged. Even the holy golden menorah was in bad condition, and only enough oil could be found to light the menorah for a single day, while a search for more was begun. It took 8 days to find more oil, yet a miracle occured where the menorah stayed lit for 8 days until more oil was found. It was seen as a great sign from Jehovah God that the smaller Jewish rebellion to defeat the powerful Greek army succeeded, and a powerful sign from God that the menorah did not not go out and stayed lit for 8 days. Maybe it was the faithfulness of Mattathias who refused to dishonor the laws of God and who refused to eat pork and led a religious rebellion so that the MidEast Jews had their own land to worship in. But the faithfulness of the Jewish people to God, not to compromise their faith, and the great signs from God of rewarding this faithful proved a great covenent between God and the Jewish people. Hannukah celebrates the eight day miracle of the menorah lighting and the close relationship of God and his Jewish faithful.

This morning, another religious leader, the Pope called for an end to the evils of terrorism, environmental damage, proliferation of world arms, poverty and pandemics. While the clear evils of terrorism or the evils of disease are clearly apparent, there is much foot dragging among the industrial nations not to take serious steps to stem the environment damage caused by development of booming economic conditions. Both the U.S. and China are huge offenders in this area. Serious attempts to clean up cities, improve water quality, lower pollution from industry and automobiles and to further restrict smoking need to undetaken with great seriousness. Poverty remains a great evil, not only in much of the developing world, but also in the U.S. where the Senate voted for social service cuts while offreing the wealthy $70 billion in new tax cuts. And the proliferation of world arms continues where the militaries of China, Russia and the U.S. continue to threaten world peace by growing militaries that threaten one another and world security. And the major world states continue to supply the military dictators of Africa with high priced arms while many live in poverty and creating endless cycles of war instead of producing mature political systems based on compromise.

The Pope is indeed right. There are many evils that confront the world. But it also gives a legitimate challenge to the religious progressives to work towards a safer and cleaner new world. Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to all. May God offer his very best blessings to all and their loved ones.

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