December Chaplain's Reflections
By Capt. Matthew Gray, 169th Fighter Wing
/ Published November 29, 2018
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Hello Swamp Fox family! As we gather together at this December drill, the days grow short and the nights long. The wind bites with a chill and it may seem, to some, to be a season without hope. Yet there is ALWAYS hope so long as we have breath. As you may know, our state motto is “Dum Spiro Spero” “While I breathe, I hope”. This December there are two major religious celebrations centered around hope, which remind us that even amidst the darkness, the light of hope shines!
This Sunday, December 2, the Jewish people begin the celebration of Hanukkah, it is known as the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a small ragtag militia over the large and highly trained Syrian Greek army. The Maccabees had little reason for hope of victory, yet while the whole world seemed against them, they clung to their belief in God’s faithfulness and fought off the Syrian horde! Then, having to rebuild the Temple with only enough olive oil to light a single lamp for one night, the lamp remained lit throughout eight consecutive nights giving the Jewish people enough time to restore the temple. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival where each night a candle is lit from a nine-branched menorah while reciting blessings before placing the menorah prominently in a window to remind others that there is always hope.
The second major religious celebration this month is Christmas in which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. It is celebrated close to the winter solstice on December 21. This is when the days begin to get longer and brighter and the nights shorter, thus signifying the fulfillment of the long-awaited hope of a savior’s entrance into the world. The sun rises higher in the sky giving light to the world; the birth of the Son of God giving the light of joy to our hearts. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a celebration of a hope fulfilled by the birth of a savior. It reminds Christians that even at our darkest moment there is always hope and that no darkness will ever overcome the light. It is a celebration of long-expected hope, fulfilled.
Hope. This season is all about it! Hope is the central facet of both Hanukkah and Christmas. As I said, the world seems dark. Hurricanes and financial strains, political unrest between nation states around the world, humanitarian crisis here and abroad. But there is always hope and these two celebrations remind us of that. Whatever faith tradition we hold dear, being a people of goodwill, may we remind each other there is always hope even in the darkest of times. The light of hope burns brightly for all to see “Dum Spiro Spero” and the Chaplain Corps is here for you. We wish you all a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!