Rosh Chodesh, Hebrew for New Moon doesn’t begin when there is a sliver of light. It is when the moon is completely obscured in darkness. The New Moon is when you can’t see the moon at all. Each Hebraic month begins in this state of complete darkness. Slowly the moon is revealed one sliver at a time until after two full weeks we finally see a full moon. Then, just as it slowly waxed to fullness the light of it slowly wanes into obscurity until we approach the next new month. This cycle repeats twelve to thirteen times a year.
How do we find our way when hope seems lost in the dark?
I wish I could give some catchy anecdote. I haven’t got one. I’m all for positive affirmations. They help. They can be a powerful weapon against the mental and emotional onslaught that often accompanies great difficulties. But if you are like me, there are times when it isn’t about having a positive attitude. There are some times when it seems that life is dishing out crap in bucket loads and positive affirmations just aren’t enough to help push through the debris.
During the dark storms that life dishes out we often wonder; where is God? Is He really here? Is He here for me? Where is He as I’m facing eviction? Where is He when I’m sitting in the waiting room of the ER wondering if my kid is going to make it through the night? Where is He as I’m getting fired from my job and have no savings to fall back on? Where is He when I get diagnosed with cancer? Where is He when my spouse tells me they don’t love me anymore?
It can be hard to hold on to hope when our life is submerged in some kind of dark trial. Tragedy can bring trauma. Trauma has a way of freezing our lives, holding us hostage in some kind of suspended animation. Sometimes pain and sorrow hit us so hard it leaves us gutted. We can feel as if our hearts have been ripped out and our lives left barren and dry. It is during those times that it can be incredibly difficult to even see God never mind feel His comfort.
Many people live every day in silent desperation. When the dark days come we search relentlessly for any flicker of light that might give us just a small measure of hope to hold on to. We search for hope. We hope for hope. When we are in pain it is easy to question God’s love for us. We search everywhere craving relief, hoping for a bright beacon, but willing to settle for a tiny flicker of life. We long for heaven splitting miracles. We ache to be rescued from our plight. It is during those times that you can pile up all the Christian platitudes and set them ablaze as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want superficial catch phrases. I want something results. I want God. I want hope that the darkness will one day give way to light. I want something other than heart-wrenching distress.
When we have family members trapped in abuse, dysfunction or addiction the holiday season can feel like revisiting the scene of the crime. I come from a family engulfed in serious addiction and dysfunction. Collectively we are like a city besieged, traumatized, gutted and burned out . On both sides of my family our members suffer from any number of conditions including: alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, emotional deficiencies, learning disabilities, as well as, sexual addictions, obsessive compulsive disorder, and dissociative identity disorder, you name it, we’ve got it. It is heartbreaking. It’s dark. It can be overwhelming discouraging, especially around the holidays.
Do I have hope for my family? I do, but the hope I have didn’t come from the power of positive thinking or the strength of my emotional resilience. It came like the lighting of one tiny candle at a time. It came, not because the heavens were split and my family was somehow supernaturally catapulted into a happy carefree life. In many ways the darkness still exists. But the tiny flickering flames remind me that God is in my midst and He is working even though I can’t see it right now.
I know that God is bigger and greater than all the issues combined. I know He loves each and every member of my family. I know that He has a plan and destiny that He longs to see fulfilled in each and every life. As each one of us individually turns our lives over to the Lord one more flame is ignited. One day I believe my family will belit up like the menorah on the eighth day of Hanukkah.
Today, Friday, December 18, 2020 is the final day of Hanukkah 5781. Last night at sundown the eighth and final Hanukkah candle was lit in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple after having been defiled by the Greeks, during the time of the Maccabees. I love Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah is a story of hope in the midst of darkness. It reminds me that despite great difficulties God is working in the midst of my circumstances, even if I can’t see Him what He is doing.
Hanukkah always begins on Kislev 25 and is celebrated for 8 nights concluding at sundown on Tevet 3. That means right in the middle of Hanukkah is a Rosh Chodesh, a time when the light of the moon is completely obscured. On day 6 of Hanukkah, Kislev concludes, the sixth candle of the Hanukkah menorah is lit and the moon is completely obscured in the night sky, welcoming the New Moon.
Today, is Tevet 3, 5781
That means the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh) began at sundown on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. I wanted to get this posted on Wednesday but interestingly we ended up in total darkness. Our power went out due to a winter storm. We didn’t have lights again until just about sundown last night. I can’t help but hear God giggle just a little at the irony. I got a living picture of going through Rosh Chodesh Tevet in complete darkness.
We live in rural Virginia. I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I’m used to the hefty Chicago electrical infrastructure that powers millions of households. I have not fully adapted to country life. I got initiated over the last couple of days. There’s nothing darker than a house without power in the woods at night. It’s so dark your eyes don’t work.
Thankfully, my late father had the foresight to have a generator on hand. It’s gas powered. We expected it to run out of gas in the middle of the night. Yet, when I woke up in our chilly home at 5:30 yesterday morning, over twelve hours after we started the generator, it was still running, and had gas to spare. I don’t know if that counts as a Hanukkah miracle but I’m really glad I didn’t have to go out in the freezing dark night to try to fill the tank.
We sat in darkness for what seemed like an eternity. Did we know that the power would eventually come back on. Yes, but we didn’t know when. I called the power company a few times for updates – nothing. No word on Wednesday as to when the lights would come back on. Thursday morning, still no news. The power company could not give us any clue when we would be back up and running. Despite not knowing when we could get back to our Christmas movie marathon my stepmom and I both knew one thing, eventually the lights will come back on. We didn’t need to do the work. The power company was on the job. The electric company is Dominion Energy. I trust that the power company is working at getting us fully illuminated. I trust that even though I’m not out there watching the workers brave the incredibly difficult conditions. But I can trust that there are those dedicated individuals that have the situation in hand. I think you can see where I’m going with this. God, the ultimate in Dominion Power, is hard at work even though the dark and sometimes dangerous circumstances seem to obscure our view.
On Wednesday, Rosh Chodesh Tevet, we sat in total darkness. We had no lights and not heat until Thursday evening just after sundown. Thursday evening, at sundown, the eighth day of Hanukkah began and all the lights of the menorah were burning brightly. Is God trying to get the picture through to me, or what? Right there in the midst of literal darkness the light of hope burns brightly.
Tevet, Total Darkness and Fully Illuminated
Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the tenth month), begins when the moon is in darkness and the Hanukkah Menorah is at its brightest. Historically, for the Israel, the month of Tevet was a time of great darkness. On the tenth of Tevet, (the tenth month) Babylon began a lengthy battle against the city of Jerusalem. 30 months later, in the month of Tammuz (the fourth month), the walls of city were breached. And later on the ninth of Av (the fifth month), the Temple was set on fire. With the Temple destroyed the light of the Menorah in the Holy Place was extinguished. The people eventually taken into captivity. The city was in ruins and the Temple had been completely destroyed.
The Babylonian captivity concluded what is referred to as the First Temple Era with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. The people of God go into exile for having turned their back on God. After seventy years in captivity they return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild. The Second Temple Era begins when the foundation is laid through the oversight of Zerubbabel in 515 BCE.
Four hundred years later, after the return from Babylon and the second Temple was rebuilt, during the time of the Maccabees, the Greeks made war against the Jews and Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the Temple by slaughtering a pig on the altar. This defilement of the Temple is what necessitated the rededication (Hanukkah).
D’vir Qodesh, also known as, the Holy of holies was empty. The Second Temple had no Ark of the Covenant, no mercy seat. The only evidence that God was among them was the continuous flame of the Menorah which stood in the Holy Place.
From the time of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple until the day that Jesus uttered His voice in the Temple in Jerusalem, there was no word from God. The term D’vir Qodesh refers to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, where the presence of God resided. D’vir comes from the root word davar which basically means to speak. (a word spoken)
Jesus the Voice and the Light of God.
From the time of Moses until the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, it was from the D’vir Qodesh, above the mercy seat, the Ark of the Covenant, that God would speak. During the Second Temple Era there was no Ark of the Covenant. The D’vir Qodesh was silent. There were no words being uttered by God in the earth. Do you think that might be why those years are referred to as the silent years? In the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the Logos (Logos is the Greek word used in the Septuagint for davar)
Silence was Broken
God chose to shine His light and utter the sound of His voice among His people once again. This time it was not in a Temple built with stone but through the life of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.
1Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. 2 This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator; 3 His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. 4 His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light—5 A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched. 6 A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this Light. 7 This baptizer put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light so all might believe through him. Some wondered whether he might be the Light, 8 but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light. 9 The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos.
Jesus as the Light does not call out from a distant place but draws near by coming into the world.
10 He entered our world, a world He made; yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 Even though He came to His own people, they refused to listen and receive Him. 12 But for all who did receive and trust in Him, He gave them the right to be reborn as children of God; 13 He bestowed this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will. 14 The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor—the one true Son of the Father—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth.
When Jesus spoke it broke over four hundred years of silence. The sound of God speaking (davar), among men was heard once again.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 NLT
Jesus is here. He isn’t off in outer space somewhere. He is near. He is right here, right now. He is alive. He is more powerful than the darkness that tries to engulf our lives. He is always here. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Darkness may try to obscure Him from our view. We might not always see Him or hear His voice, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is still here and He is still speaking. If it feels like you are groping in the dark and can’t find your way, just breath His name. He is there.
Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, illuminate the darkness in each and every life with the shining Light of Jesus Christ. Be to each one the Light of hope, the Word of comfort and the Voice of wisdom. Give hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless, sight to the blind and open the ears of the deaf. Bring healing to the sick and burst through the darkness with your eternal light. Come O’ Light of God and shine. Bless each household with the miracle of life.
May God bring you hope and joy, blessings and peace.
Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas