Like the Magi, members of the GLBT community are often perceived as different. ... Yet, just as their earnest search was rewarded when they encountered God Incarnate, so we who seek to bring our vulnerabilities and imperfections to our Maker may be assured that it is by God's grace we accepted.
Sarah carefully brushed the hair of Esther, her favourite doll, before
placing her on a cushion close by the comfortable armchair. Moshe
turned from the window and called, "Grandfather is here!" The twins
glowed with excitement as they heard those familiar footsteps coming
toward them. Grandfather Fiske would be lighting all the candles of the
menorah tonight. It had been such a busy week; all their relatives were
busily packing, for a census had been called and each family needed to
return to their own tribe's birthplace so they could be counted. Of
course to parents it was apparent this was simply a ruse designed to
enable the ruling authorities to increase the already crippling taxes,
but to children it was a time of excitement. They would be travelling
in groups and would have the opportunity to become acquainted with
family members who lived far from their own homes.
But before their journey commenced each household was observing the
festival of Chanukah, the wonderful festival of light. It was a time
for all the Chanukah stories to be told. Entire families would lay
aside their chores and listen once again to the tales of heroes of old
who had defeated the Greek invaders. There was also the amazing miracle
in which one container of oil had burned not for just one but eight
days. As the door opened Moshe and Sarah paused in mid-flight.
Assuring himself the whole family had assembled, Grandfather led them in
the recitation of the first blessings of the evening.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified
us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed
miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us
life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
He then lit a spill from the fire. Tonight was the eighth night of
Chanukah, and all those gathered watched him light the center candle -
the servant - before he lit each of the other candles of the menorah
from it. The servant candle, or shamash, always stood either higher or
lower than the other candles. Grandfather carefully lit the rightmost
candle of the menorah from the servant light, and then proceeded, one by
one, till he reached the last candle on the left side of the menorah.
With all candles alight the menorah was placed in the window, and
Grandfather recited the Hanerot Halalu prayer.
"Why do we place the candle each night in the window?" asked Sarah.
do this to show passers-by that in the midst of darkness, light
continues to shine, and so conquer darkness. Whether the darkness be
caused by hate or intolerance, whether it is the darkness known by those
people who are not free, or the darkness in the hearts of those who hide
from truth, our lights will always proclaim freedom and love," replied
As everyone settled themselves to hear the Chanukah stories
this evening would produce, he continued, "Our Chanukah Menorah has
eight branches, unlike the one used in the Temple in Jerusalem, because
seven candles speak of the natural and finite world, whereas eight
candles bring us an image of the infinite and supernatural world, the
era of Moshiach, far beyond the limitation we know in this world."
Grandfather spoke quietly, "The lights of Chanukah also give us the
strength and courage to remain alert, no matter how long the darkness
that surrounds us lasts."
And so, in his deep and resonant voice, Grandfather Fiske began to
retell the exciting stories of Judas Maccabaeus who, with his followers,
determined never again to submit to the unholy demands of the Greek
occupational force. As his story drew to an end Mother spoke softly
from the shadows, "Now tell the story of why we eat cheese each
Chanukah, so that we may remember and celebrate the bravery of Yehudit,
for it is not only men who are courageous."
Grandfather smiled; each year this was the final Chanukah story, one
that had been repeated generation by generation. And as he spoke, the
candles burned lower on the Menorah. Finally taking his grandchildren
by the hand, he rose to blow out the candles, each in its turn, first
the eight holy lights, and finally the servant light. But as he paused
before the shamash, the flame lifted slowly into the air, and rose above
his head. Moshe and Sarah stood transfixed. No one had ever seen such
a thing happen! Mother and Father looked askance, what was happening
this night, of all nights? The flame moved toward the door, with the
whole family in pursuit. And then, before their eyes it flowed out the
door and rose even higher. Higher and higher this one flame moved,
until finally it disappeared from their sight.
Not even Grandfather Fiske could offer any explanation for this new
miracle, a flame that moved from their menorah high into the sky without
being extinguished. Not even the holiday food, doughnuts and potato
pancakes, could stop their questions one to another, across the table
that evening. To Sarah and Moshe, not even the Chanukah money, given so
they could share their good fortune, could distract them from the
queries that tumbled from their lips. It was certain that this
occurrence would be the principal topic of conversation during the
journey they were about to commence. It would be good to hear the
opinions of the Rabbi, once he learned of this errant flame.
Higher and higher into the sky moved the flame from the servant candle,
as it traveled consistently on an easterly path. Finally it paused
over a courtyard in a country far away. There in the courtyard,
discussing the movement of the planets in conjunction with other
celestial bodies, stood a small group of wealthy men. Among them were
three of the court astrologers or magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
As they gazed skyward there appeared a flickering light, almost as if it
were a candle. But a candle aloft and burning despite the breeze that
had sprung up at sunset? Surely this was a sign, but who had ever heard
of such a sign? They hurried inside, debating fiercely with one another
as to the meaning of this light. Scrolls were opened, servants were
sent to the homes of other astrologers, even the vaguest whisper of a
long-forgotten memory was pondered. Still, nowhere could an answer be
found; the light became an unsolved riddle, the subject of court
discussion and bewilderment. And now, to add to the confusion it had
caused, the light began to move westward.
Plagued by insatiable curiosity, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar decided
to pursue this light, for they would know no peace until its riddle had
been solved to their satisfaction. Quickly they assembled a small
caravan and departed, travelling by night when the light burned brightly
and resting by day. Over national boundaries it led them, across
sweeping desert plains; they climbed ranges of hills and crossed river
frontiers, all in pursuit of this light. Finally they arrived at the
borders of Israel, occupied at this time by the garrisons of Rome. Why,
they asked, would the celestial light be bringing them to this land
whose occupants had no life but that which Rome would allow? As they
moved through thoroughfares leading to the capital, Jerusalem, they
stopped members of other caravans to inquire about the light. But no
one, it seemed, had noticed the flicker in the sky, so engrossed were
they all to arrive at specific destinations decreed by Rome.
It seemed the only solution to this mystery could be contained among the
records kept by astrologers in the royal Jewish court. The Magi
travelled to the court of Herod, appointed king of Israel, and sought
audience before the king. Seeing such distinguished guests, Herod was
determined to assist them, and perhaps assist his own cause. He invited
them to rest, and hurriedly assembled the court astrologers. "Where,"
he demanded, "is there a foretelling of a light, a star it would seem,
that has brought astrologers from the east? What does such a star
signify?" The astrologers disputed heatedly among themselves, and
finally one of them approached Herod. "It would appear, your majesty,
that such a star has been predicted, a star that will herald the coming
of the promised Messiah. If this is the expected a star, it will herald
the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, the city of David."
Early the next morning the Magi were summonsed before Herod, and told
the news that a light such as they had described could be the star
heralding the birth of the promised King of Israel. This King would
free the country from the domination of other nations, and restore
Israel to its rightful sovereignty. Taking note of the directions to
Bethlehem, the Magi departed, certain now that their quest had not been
in vain. As the road wound toward the rocky limestone ridge on which
Bethlehem was situated, they appraised the news of the Messiah. High in
the sky above their heads the faint flicker of light persisted, though
its pace seemed to have slowed considerably.
Then finally it stopped. Not over one of the inns lining the road, but
to the rear of the furthermost inn, over the caves holding provisions
and sheltering livestock, it paused, and finally stopped. The Magi slid
from their mounts, and moved forward to discover in the manger lined
with straw a newborn baby. They turned, seeking to unpack the gifts
they had brought with them when a movement from their guiding light
caught their eyes. Down over the cave, hovering almost above the baby
and its parents, flickered one small flame, almost as if it had been
birthed from a candle. The shamash, servant candle of the menorah,
seemed to ponder over this child, born to be the servant of God and of
humanity. And then in an instant the light was gone, yet the glow it
had cast illuminated the cave so that all could see clearly the faces of
this unique family and the animals sharing their shelter.