On December 13th, the Church remembers St. Lucia, a virgin Christian martyr who was killed under the persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian. She devoted her life to the faith, even though it meant that the pagan man who wished to marry her had her killed in anger and in shame. Like the blood of the other martyrs, St. Lucia provides an example of faith in the face of persecution.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. In fact, that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:11-12 (EHV)
At sundown on December 12th, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah began. Over the next 8 days, the festival will be commemorated by food, family, games, and the lighting of the menorah (candelabra) or hanukkiah. This practice has its origin in the account of the Maccabees (from the apocryphal books of 1 & 2 Maccabees) who won a victory over their Greek oppressors and took back the temple, rededicating it for sacred use. According to this account, there was a miracle that first Hanukkah: the wicks of the temple’s menorah burned for eight straight days, despite there only being enough oil for one day. This was taken as a symbol of God’s great providence for his people even in the face of oppression.
What an intriguing occasion this year, that Hanukkah coincides with the Festival of St. Lucia – the Jewish festival of lights coincides with the day of the Christian saint whose name means “light.”
According to legend, St. Lucia had her eyes gouged out before her martyrdom. This imposed blindness was supposed to be a message to Christians, that they shouldn’t think about “seeing” or “knowing” anything negative about the Empire. St. Lucia, of course, like other Christian martyrs, chose to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, EHV). Christians throughout the centuries have commemorated this specific martyr by lighting lights in honor of her name, and in confession of the truth of God that surpasses the darkness of this world: Jesus is the light who “is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, EHV). The Word of God testifies to him, that Word which is “a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Ps. 119:105, EHV), because Jesus is himself “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6, EHV).
This Hanukkah and Advent season, remember the light which has indeed won the victory against the oppressive darkness. This is God’s light and God’s victory against sin, death, and the devil, and so, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:57, EHV).
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) ©2017 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.