FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–To Jews and Christians alike who happen upon this page: Happy Hanukkah. May yours be blessed.
We do not have a menorah to light at my home this year. But I believe, as a co-worker once pointed out, that Yeshua went to the temple and festivals as an observant Jew. As the best of possible examples for humanity to model, He humbly honored the God of Abraham and Israel.
Lately I’m running myself ragged between my newborn son, seminary studies, work and preparing for Christmas. None of this leaves much time for dreidl spinning.
Regardless, a part of me will always share in the sense of awe, wonder and humility at the miracle Yahweh wrought in the days of the Maccabees. The same holy Creator who gave the Israelites eight days’ worth of oil from one day’s supply, just enough to dedicate the temple, gave the life that now stirs within your limbs and mine.
I say we do not have a menorah at home because the one we lit during my childhood is at my mother’s house, out of state. When I was a boy, we attended a Methodist church on Sundays and seldom bothered with traditional Hanukkah gifts like chocolate coins (I was fat enough already).
Every December, though, we observed the Festival of Lights in honor of both the Lord and a small amount of Jewish heritage passed on from my Great-Great-Grandmother Golden.
As I became a teenager, pride, pop culture and drugs ended whatever loose grip Methodism or Judaism had upon me. Even though I had enjoyed the family atmosphere and hymn singing at church, I had never really felt close to God. So, over time, the pretense fell away like a dead limb.
There was a brief time during my secular college years that I flirted with atheism. But even that was short-lived. Even into my cynical, agnostic 20s, I knew that God is real. I used to attribute this to having Jewish blood, but while reading 2 Kings, where Jewish ruler after Jewish ruler turns away from Him, I put the fantasy to bed. Grace alone can account for it now.
As I neared 30, I had chosen to believe the secular, theologically lazy I’ll-make-heaven-or-whatever-is-beyond-by-being-a-nice-guy-if-I-try-hard-enough baloney. It never completely filled the God-shaped hole, especially when I was still and honest enough to look inside. I knew things were not right.
I am so thankful that I have found the peace and healing that only inviting the Messiah’s spiritual presence into life can bring. This sounds ridiculous if you have never experienced it, I know (I used to roll my eyes, too), but it is true. I was lonely despite being married to a wonderful woman, venomously angry and hurt inside so much that I was emotionally numb most of the time. The Messiah healed me and, as a result, I see now that I had never really known true joy, ever in my life.
If you have ever thought that the world and the people in it are naturally bad, bingo: We are all sinners, corrupted at birth since the days of Adam and Eve. This is why Talmudic Law is impossible to completely fulfill for any of us, try though we might. Yahweh is so holy that no one tainted by sin can survive His presence, and that puts us in an impossible jam: Without Messiah, we have no hope of avoiding Yahweh’s wrath.
Thankfully, there is a way to stand pure in Yahweh’s eyes this very moment. He sent the Messiah, the only sin-free human ever born, Yeshua, to suffer and die in your place. His pure, holy blood is an atoning sacrifice and nothing else could substitute for it.
Today is the only grace period we are given. When Messiah comes back or you die, the deadline for forgiveness expires. If you are tired of faking happiness and you want a better friend than even your mother, father, children or partner can ever be, Yeshua will be that friend while giving new meaning to all your other relationships.
All you have to do is ask. No strings. You do not have to stop smoking. You do not have to help a quota of little old ladies cross the street. The notion that you have to be perfect (or could, if you wanted to) is a myth.
A simple prayer like, “Yeshua, if you are really the Messiah, come into my life and show me,” will change your world radically. He doesn’t care how you hold your hands, but admitting that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and agreeing to leave that sin behind you, seeking His will over your own are vital.
I pray that you will find true peace with Yahweh this season. If I may be of assistance, comfort or encouragement, I would love to hear from you. My e-mail is “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
B. Jon Walker is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.