The Festival of Lights: Lessons of light in the darkest seasons

Published on December 01, 2020

As we head into December, we find ourselves in the season when the sun shines upon the northern hemisphere for the shortest amount of time in the year. The light hours grow short, and the nights grow long. 

Many of us experience some form of seasonal depression during these weeks because our bodies crave Vitamin D, provided to us by the sun’s rays. How God created our bodies is truly amazing. Even our need for light demonstrates his original intention—that we would draw our sustaining strength from his very presence.

Into these dark times comes the celebration of the birth of the Light of the World. What a perfect paradox—that during the shortest days of the year we would wait expectantly for the dawning of the Son of God. 

The Jewish people, God’s chosen nation and the people to whom Jesus was originally sent, experienced a time of darkness as well. It was the period of time between the writings of Malachi and the coming of Christ. God seemed silent, but he was just as present in that season as he had been throughout their entire history.

The Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, tells the story of the Maccabees, a fierce family of warriors who resisted the Greco-Syrian regime during those silent years. Although they were much smaller in number than the Greco-Syrian army, the Maccabees believed God wanted them to resist the dark forces that had infiltrated Jewish life. They were filled with righteous anger as they watched the Temple of the Lord filled with pagan worship.

After they had defeated their enemies and taken back the Temple, they found that the holiest places had been desecrated and needed to be restored. As their ancestors had done before them, they looked for a sign from God that he was with them as they stood up to the foreign conquerors. And God provided.

God sent a sign in the form of supernatural provision. As they cleaned the Temple, the Maccabees found a small jar of oil, the last of the holy oil that had been used for lighting the Menorah, an eight-stemmed sacred lamp. They chose to light the Menorah, even though they knew the oil would only last through the night. When they arose the next day, they were astonished to see the Menorah still burning brightly.

And it continued to do so—for eight days.

He is our provider

Even in the darkest time, God chose to speak and to reveal that he is Yahweh Jireh—the LORD our Provider. He had not forgotten his people, and he does not forget us, even in our darkest seasons.

As parents, we find ourselves in a dark season, a season that hits close to home, because of the impact it is having on our children. We recognize that COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty for our children: they have lost their classrooms, their friends, many of their routines, and important relationships. 

We are facing a mental health crisis at this time, as we deal with our own anxieties and the anxieties of our kids. Research from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry shows that child and adolescent anxiety and depression have gone up during the pandemic and lockdown. Children have lost much, and they are mourning those losses, although they might not be cognitively aware of it. It is important that we care for their mental health and take the time to understand their needs in this season.

How do we manage the increased needs of children who may be experiencing fear, anxiety, or even depression? 

How do we face these challenges while simultaneously facing our own fears? 

How do we balance self-care while caring for others?

God is not silent.

God is working, even in the darkest seasons.

Empowering grace

God will provide just what we need and what our children need in this season as we press into his presence. 

We need the Holy Spirit to fill our jars of oil with his discernment, wisdom, and understanding. We must see ourselves as the Maccabee warriors, fiercely fighting for the restoration of our children, but not in our own abilities and strengths. The Maccabee army was small and weak in comparison to the Greco-Syrians, yet they were triumphant over a superior fighting force. 

How did they manage this? 

They understood that they were standing with the Sovereign King of the Universe. Their priorities were in agreement with his heart, and, like many other warriors who fought in the name of the Lord throughout Scripture, they believed God would lend his strength to their efforts.

God’s priority is the family. When we ask him, he will be present in our lives, offering us his peace and confidence. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (ESV). 

This is his promise to you. 

We are not called to parent alone. All obedience is meant to be empowered by supernatural grace that flows directly from his presence through the avenues of his Word and prayer. He is an ever-present help in time of trouble. 

Christ’s light is shining in the darkest of moments in our lives, and he will pour out his empowering grace to help us parent our children through the darkest seasons of life.

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Harmony Klingenmeyer

Harmony Klingenmeyer is wife to Scott and the adoptive mother of three sons. Over the past five years she and her husband have parented sixteen children out of the foster care system in Douglas County, Oregon. She authored the book Hear Their Voices: A Portrait of An American Foster Family as a wake-up call to the needs of foster children in American communities. Harmony holds her Masters Degree in Education and her pastoral license through Grace, International. She is the Director of the Teaching Team at Garden Valley Church in Roseburg, Oregon. Harmony is well known in her community for strong biblical teaching and her gift of encouragement.

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