Once upon a time, a member of a congregation I was serving asked me “Why did you have to talk about Jesus in the service?” I replied that if we were going to have Christmas Eve services, I thought it would be appropriate to at least give Jesus a shout out.
In a religious tradition that honors many spiritual paths, there are times to explore the commonalities of the various traditions and there are times to honor specifics. We don’t have to do everything all the time. All this to say, there is no mention of Hanukkah in the Christmas Eve services I have planned for this year. I wonder if this will concern some people. However, I note that I don’t feel a need to work Christianity into a service around the Jewish High Holy Days.
Of course, although Hanukkah is not a big religious holiday, it has become more important as a cultural holiday because its proximity to Christmas. One of our daughters was particularly skilled at getting her public school math teachers to include dreidel in a class each year as a way of balancing the Christmas themes that crept into lesson plans. It was our daughter’s way of honoring the Jewish side of her heritage.
I say “Happy Holidays” in December because I believe it is inclusive. I feel passionately that public schools and governments must be squeaky clean about not favoring one religion over another. But next Tuesday, on the first day of Winter, I’ll be joining with others to celebrate the Solstice, and three days later we’ll gather again to celebrate Christmas. And, you know, I’m still going to mention Jesus.