The Holiday Spirit, as Told by Several of Brentwood’s Religious Leaders
Brentwood News invited local faith leaders to inspire us at this special time of year. Here are their statements:
By Brentwood News December 2012 | December 19, 2012
The Hanukkiyah is the most important historic symbol of the Jewish people. As we celebrate this wonderful Festival of Lights for eight days beginning Saturday night December 8, Jews will gather in their homes to kindle the tapers of the candles on the Hanukkiyah. The candelabra and its history show the strength of the Jewish people.
The Hanukkiyah is not closed. It is like a relationship which must remain ever open to new ideas and fresh beginnings, learning to adapt to change and growth. It means recognizing that we are on the road to become the people we are meant to be. Our religious outlook may also evolve over time; something we once rejected may have new meaning for us today.
The glow of the Hanukkiyah brightens each of our days and sheds light on all who see it. Each of us is a child of God, and the light of life is a divine flame. The lights of the Hanukkiyah are also fragile. Any small breeze can topple the flames, just as a word spoken out in anger, or a thoughtless act can damage a relationship. Friends and family members must always work to strengthen the bonds between them, especially at this festive time.
The Hanukkiyah is a symbol of the here and now, this moment in time, frozen in memory and forever established with hope. And it takes us back to our ancestors who fought with courage to achieve the first victory for religious freedom. The Hanukkiyah links us to our past, and stands at the beginning of our future. Let the generations yet to come know how we cherish this holiday!
From Susan Jackson,
Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist:
Holidays occur in late fall and early winter for many faith traditions. These celebrations frequently arrive after eager anticipation accompanied by some trepidation … we look forward to family gatherings, fasting and feasting, fancy decorations, festive music, fun shopping, while maybe simultaneously sighing over the same gatherings, fasting and feasting, decorating, music, shopping! Ah, the holidays! As a Christian I look forward to spending Christmas with Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Baha’i family and friends. To me this is a natural time to include, and feel included by many families, many traditions. This is a gift of the season.
Another wonderful gift of this season is that many stop to remember those in need, making financial donations, offering gifts, lending a helping hand or listening ear, and much more. We also pause to reflect on another year of joys and disasters, some personal, others community-wide, national or global, hoping and praying for healing progress in the new year.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, said of the holiday season, “I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth’s appearing.”
People of all faiths can agree with these desires and join together in praying/meditating to see “Truth’s appearing” experienced today in more healthful, joyful, peaceful, selfless, productive lives, individually and collectively. May everyone feel and share this deep spirit of the holiday season.
[quote from a collection of writings entitled First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany]
A Poem by Father Donie,
St. Martin of Tours:
“He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” Lk 2,51-52
At twelve, excited to travel south,
First time to leave his village far behind.
Imagined Jerusalem ahead,
Awesome temple realized.
Noisy animals, throngs of people from afar,
Vastly catholic in word and dress.
Smoke of sacrifice, scent of incense;
A world not known to him ‘till now.
Lost in wonder, he stayed behind
Seeking answers from temple elders
Because of stirring questions.
Anxious searching parents found him there;
Puzzled by his puzzling answer.
With him they journeyed home to Nazareth;
To scripture silence for many years, for us
To wonder how he thought and lived.
How did you fill your days?
Did Sabbath synagogue strike a chord?
Was it a joy to saw and shape the wood?
Did you plant potatoes and crush the grapes
And did you like to row a boat and fish?
Did you play at games with other kids,
And did you enjoy a donkey ride?
Were you excited to hear of
Samson, Esther, David and the boat of Noah?
As a shepherd of sheep and goats,
Had you premonitions of things to come?
You must have loved your mother very much,
While she wondered what you would be
Aware of Simeon’s prophesy of piercing sword.
These questions come to mind
As we again remember you a child
In a stable long ago.
From David Carpenter,
Brentwood Presbyterian Church:
May I extend my, and my congregation’s, warmest wishes to you and your loved ones this blessed holiday season. A few weeks ago we had the privilege of hosting author, scholar, theologian, Brian McLaren as part of a nation-wide tour promoting his new book on inter-faith dialogue and understanding, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” Named by Time Magazine as one of America’s top 25 most influential Christian leaders, Brian’s book wades into one of the most crucial questions our world faces at the dawn of the 21st century, “Why do so many of our faith institutions (beginning with the Christian Church) measure the level of commitment, among their adherents, by the degree of animosity and dismissiveness they display toward those of differing faiths and beliefs?
Why do we often feel such pressure, when it comes to interfaith dialogue, to move toward one of two opposite but equally unhelpful extremes; either vilifying and dismissing those of other faiths, or watering down our own beliefs to pretend our differences don’t exist or aren’t important?
In this timely book, McLaren does a masterful job arguing that it’s possible to be thoroughly and authentically committed to our own faith while still loving and respecting those of other beliefs, not despite what they believe but because of it.
To illustrate, Brian asks us to imagine Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and the Buddha, sitting down around a table together. Can any of us imagine anything less than a deep, lively, rich discussion, full of mutual love and respect, genuine interest and caring, lively and passionate debate, to be sure, but all in a spirit of camaraderie and shared inquiry?
In recent years people like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have argued that religion is responsible for much of the world’s violence and hatred. While McLaren doesn’t deny the accusation, he points out that it is not so much the faiths themselves as this universal human temptation, that plagues all human institutions, to foster unity and cohesion among our adherents by identifying an “enemy” to join in opposition against.
From cliques in junior high (think jocks vs. band geeks), to ethnic groups, colleges and universities (think Bruins vs. Trojans), nations, religions, even sects within religions (think Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland or Shiite vs. Sunni in the Middle East) wherever humans gather, we are quick to discover the intrinsic, economic and motivational rallying value of the loyalty created by identifying an outsider.
I commend Brian’s book to you as an important offering at an important time in perhaps the most religiously diverse city in the world. However you welcome the peace, grace and hope of this sacred season, know that we at Brentwood Presbyterian love and respect you not “despite” what you believe but because of it!
Grace and Peace,
Reverend David G. Carpenter
Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein
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5:00am on Saturday, January 12th, 2013
Here's my issue with him saying its a "greco-roman narvatire," basically a mythology or fable based on Aristitilian philosophy. Orthodox Christianity holds that the Bible was written as a library over 2500 years beginning with Moses and the pentateuch. Moses lived about 1400 BC. Plato and Aristotle lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, thus the accounts in Genesis et al originate a millenium before their time. In other words, McLaren is implying that the old testament was adjusted or even written at a later date. He's also putting forward that the Bible is not a history, but a compendium of stories and myths not meant to be taken at face value. We must be cautious of such men.