Last night we lit the Menorah candles for the last night of Chanukah. We are not ethnically Jewish nor do we claim Judaism as our faith heritage. We do, however, deeply appreciate the rich traditions that do stem from our Christian faith tradition. My second oldest, currently a freshman at Illinois State, laughs as she explains to her friends, “yeah, we’re not Jewish, but my mom makes us light the Menorah, haha.” I am certainly no model observer of any tradition, often forgetting to mark our more usual rituals (this year the first week of Advent slipped by virtually unnoticed due to a frantic race to complete some writing on my dissertation). This is likely the reason for my insistence we join our Jewish friends to celebrate God’s provision. So, we lit Chanukah candles.
On the final night, each in turn, lit one and described a way in which God provided during the past year when it felt like something nearly ran out. Clark mentioned his climb on the rock wall when he didn’t think he had the strength to make it to the top—and then, he did. My other kids described similar situations with friends or school. When I lit the last candle, I realized a remarkable thing: despite frustrations or disappointments with one another, our family never runs out of love for each other; we always come back to each other in forgiveness or understanding or support or all of the above—in love. I know this is not true of all families, and so I am especially grateful—humbled, and grateful.
I was listening to the OnBeing podcast the other day, a recorded interview Krista Tippet had with Jennifer Michael Hecht. Krista read a quote from a book written by Hecht that I thought so appropriate to the season: “We are indebted to one another, and the debt is a kind of faith, a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being.” And, despite not ascribing to her Jewish faith tradition, or any other faith tradition, Hecht went on to say, “We make the meaning for each other. And the culture makes the meaning. And we have these friendships in our head of people who thought life was really terrible, and yet decided that there’s this beauty in it, and this communalism. So, yeah, I certainly believe we believe each other into being. We’re not much when we’re not in the eyes of someone else at least some of the time.”
What a powerful idea—that beholding one another, noticing someone confers faith that this person matters; I cannot exist without you, and we create meaning together, and we become more of who we are when we are together. Of course, all of this is fueled by Love. And, because Love is so great, that Love became a person, and Love is the light that will not run out.
My prayer is that I may be especially attentive to each person around me during the remainder of this Advent season, and that together we might notice the particular ways in which we believe each other into being. Jehovah Jireh, Emanuel, God-with-us, Love—from everlasting to everlasting.