A Spark, A Flicker
Christmas – 2
December 24th was the beginning of Hanukah for those of the Jewish faith. December 25th was the celebration and beginning of Christmas for those of the Christian faith. While many might claim these are two distinctly different holidays, they do bear much in common – light and family. Therefore, it is fitting that today, December 26th, is the beginning of Kwanza, a cultural holiday that celebrates family and relationships.
One of the hallmarks of all three holidays is their connection to candles. Christians begin to anticipate Christmas with an Advent wreath, four candles lit one each week during the twenty-eight days before Christmas at a family meal and then one lit on Christmas Day. Jewish families remember the miracle of Hanukah, the burning of one day’s worth of oil lasting instead for eight days, with the lighting of eight candles with the same taper at sundown as the family gathers together. Kwanza, an American addition to celebrate African heritage, speaks to the core of every tribe’s culture – the family and during Kwanza, a candle is lit each night for six days as the family gathers.
Even if you are not Jewish, Christian, or of African descent, these celebrations and the lighting of their candles is something we all not only can appreciate but live in our daily lives. It is at this time that some of the world’s best traditions and most misunderstood traditions take place. These twelve days also symbolize our relationships with people and offer us a chance to not only celebrate but also improve our own living, giving ourselves the best possible gift of all – a brighter tomorrow.
Getting your family, whether of blood or of the heart, together is always a good thing. There will be the inevitable hassles and maybe arguments but really, it is the coming together of each individual that makes us whole and helps us move forward in our lives. As we pause to light the candles, we are called to remember who we are, why we are, and invited to see the light in each of us. Aswe depart, we take a little something that helps our own light burn brighter and we have given that to the others present.
The lighting of the menorah to celebrate Hanukah is done preferably at a window to announce to all one’s faith. We do this in every interaction we have with another. Our words either light a flame with whom we are speaking or extinguish theirs. Are we supportive in selecting our words or do we seek to harm and quench their hopes and dreams? Do we leave people smiling or frowning?
During these twelve days we will share stories and recall celebrations past as well as our hopes for the future, both days of festivities but also those ordinary, everyday moments we hope to experience. We each have opportunities to be that spark that lights a fire within another. On Christmas Eve, the first day of Hanukah, I was out doing some last minute errands. I stopped by to pick up lunch and as I sat waiting for my order, thought about how unhappy I was to be in the midst of the last minute chaos that the retail world experiences on Christmas Eve.
My number was called and as I turned to leave, a young child reached out her hand to me and smiled. I smiled back and then stopped as she spoke. “Hi!” she said as she reached further to take my hand. She told me her name and then her age. I looked at her parents who seemed okay with my talking to her and took her hand. I told her my name and she smiled even brighter. Then she squeezed my hand. “I hope you have a good day,” she said. “Here is a hand hug” and then she gently squeezed my hand.
A four-year-old hand gently squeezing my own hand might just be one of the best presents I have ever received. It definitely was a spark that lit the candle within my soul. As I left the establishment, the day suddenly was less chaotic and more pleasant. The world seemed less frenzied and most beautiful. Someone had seen the spark of something within, someone who was only four years old. The secrets to better living are not only for the rich and famous, the highly intelligent, the movers and shakers of the world.
We can each celebrate living by simply being kind, by lighting a spark within another. That is definitely worth celebrating and, really, the primary reason we celebrate at all. Whose light will you help shine brighter today? Sometimes it is as easy as a smile and joy extended to another, even a complete stranger. Any child can show you how it is done. Today be the spark that helps another’s flame burn brightly, please. The world needs more light amid the darkness of reality.