What Gabriel Saw

I like to take a break from blogging over Christmas since both you and I need time away from our computers to focus on our families during Advent and Christmas. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all again in the New Year. Enjoy this last piece for this year.

One of my favorite poets is Violet Nesdoly, of Langley, BC. I featured her Christmas poem some years ago and am posting it again. Here is her introduction and her free style poem:

“Of all the characters in the Christmas story, God the Father is the One we think of the least. Of course, we know that without Him the incarnation would never have happened.

So how did He handle the gestation and birth of His only Son? I imagine that for Him it was not unlike how it is for fathers everywhere.

Here’s what the angel Gabriel saw.”

The Son vanishes just after I am sent
to the Galilean virgin
and heaven isn’t the same.
Gone the laughter, mischief, hijinks.
Music replaced by silence
all monochromatic, sober
like the life of the party has left
and we don’t have the will
to keep partying or to go home.

The Almighty’s been moody since then
broods like never before
over calendars and seasons
looks down a lot, mostly toward Nazareth
at this blossoming virgin-still
and her earthmate.

The day this couple sets off down the road
He starts pacing      pacing       pacing
When they get to Bethlehem
it’s pace-pace-pace
then He pauses         Hush!

All the hosts of heaven stop their chatter
crowd behind Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David
peer over the balcony
focus on a dark building
near a sign that blinks  Sorry – No Vacancy.
It’s so quiet you can hear the stars hum.

Then cutting the night
tiny and tremulous
A-wah   a-wah   a-wah   a-wah

The Almighty laughs His magnificence
tosses His glory, flings His radiance
and then starts handing out cig— no, trumpets
to every angel within arm’s reach
Go tell somebody, anybody!

After they’ve left He asks for the bubbly
shakes it up
pops the cork
sprays it all over heaven.

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly.  Used with permission.See more of Violet’s writing at www.violetnesdoly.com

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Hanukkah: An Appropriate Reminder in Today’s Canada

This is a guest column by my long-time friend, Bible translation colleague, and fellow-blogger Dr. Warren Harbeck.

Why I Am Publishing Warren’s Hanukkah Column
All Christians know that God Himself holds the parents, not the state, responsible for the welfare and education of their children. The Alberta government, however, recently passed Bill 24, an incredibly oppressive piece of legislation that overrides the authority of parents for their children’s welfare and education. Elsewhere, the Ontario Law Society will not accept law students from Trinity Western University because of offensive, and discriminatory words in Trinity’s community standards. The first two offensive words the critics crossed out were, Jesus Christ.

Warren’s Column
In a world darkened by assaults on religious identity, values and freedom of expression, it’s refreshing to pause for a lighthearted time of food, family, friends, songs, games, gifts and all-around goodwill.

This is exactly what the Jewish community will experience once more for eight nights and days beginning this year at sundown, Dec. 12 (25 Kislev in the Jewish year 5778) with the lighting of the first candle in an eight-candle menorah: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

One of the truly great privileges I, as a Christian, have enjoyed over the years in writing these columns is the wisdom and inspiration of our Jewish readers. Several of them have shared with me helpful insights into the significance of Hanukkah, along with tasty latkes, jelly-filled donuts and spinning dreidels.

The History of Hanukkah
The celebration dates back almost 2,200 years to the time when the tyrant Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) attempted to impose Hellenistic customs on the people of Israel, forbidding them to practice their own religious traditions and forcing them to do things contrary to Jewish law, including eating swine’s flesh. Jewish mothers who had their male babies circumcised were executed, as were the babies.

He even desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by pillaging it and redesignating it the temple of Olympian Zeus, offering pagan sacrifices on its sacred altar.

His outrageous sacrilege in the temple so agitated devout Jews that they successfully rose up against him in what has become known as the Maccabean revolt.

They reclaimed the temple and set about rededicating it, but found only enough ritually pure oil to keep the temple candle lit for a single day. Miraculously, the candle burned for eight days, until a fresh supply of purified oil could be prepared.

The Hanukkah Story Fits Today’s Political Climate
“Our temple was rededicated,” says Calgary reader Sandy Corenblum. “Hanukkah recalls that miracle of the oil” and of the victory of light over the darkness of religious intolerance, celebrated in the lighting of the eight-candle menorah associated with this festival.

“I think a column about the Hanukkah story is exactly what is needed, a column about light and religious freedoms is so timely.” She alludes to the prophet’s words: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6).

“We as Jews have long been the victims of serious religious persecution and government restrictions on rituals and practices. Our punishment throughout all time did not deter us and we still continue with said practices and traditions,” she says.

“One small light can extinguish darkness and we must all be lights in a world full of darkness. There is a bright light within us all.”

Thank you, Sandy, and Rabbis Shaul Osadchey and Mark Glickman, and Myron and Monique Achtman, of Calgary, for your gracious assistance on this column.

I will close with lines from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah (60:1): “Arise, shine; for your light has dawned; the Presence of the Lord has shone upon you!”
Hanukkah Sameach, Happy Hanukkah!

Link to Warren’s Blog

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