“Name 10 things you are thankful for.” It was the morning of December 24th. My husband and I lay in bed, enjoying the calm before the storm known as “the holidays.” It was, of course, the dawn of Christmas Eve. It also marked the beginning of Hanukkah. Since my husband grew up in a Jewish household, we celebrate both holidays.
“Do the three kids count as one blessing or as three?” he asked, wanting to get the rules of this exercise right, or perhaps just eager for breakfast. “Each one is an individual blessing,” I decided. We agreed that each child is unique and deserving of our gratitude and prayers.
We ended our thankfulness list by naming God who, in both our traditions, offers light and encouragement. Whether we are anticipating the arrival of Christmas with our Advent candles or enjoying the increasing light on each night of Hanukkah, we give thanks that God’s faithfulness cannot be dimmed.
Our menorah and our crèche stand side by side every December. Each were both made in Israel. I bought the hand-crafted olive wood figures during a three week course in Jerusalem. The menorah was the first purchase my husband and I made as newlyweds.
When our children were little, the shepherds and kings would often wander away from the stable to encircle the lights of the menorah. That didn’t look wrong to us; it was as if those tiny figures were reminding us that both holidays are about hope and faith, endurance and trust. The gift we endeavored to pass along to our children was the message of faith in an unfailing God and the joy that both holidays can bring.
Before we were married, we worried about how to bring our two faiths together, honoring both, without compromising either. Twenty-five years later, that challenge seems more important than ever. We live in an era of division, fear and distrust. It seems critical to take time to review our blessings and listen to the life-giving message our faiths offer.
When I see the lights of the menorah shining on the stable of Bethlehem, it lets me dream about a time when people of all faiths and backgrounds might join together to celebrate hope and resilience. We can listen to and learn from one another as together we share glimpses of our steadfast God.
May that light continue to shine in the New Year and enable us to recognize one another as beloved children of God.