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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

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    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

    This time of year is always a special one. We, at NEFGA, feel blessed to have each and every one of you as part of our family. We wish all of you well as you enjoy this season with your loved ones.

    Take a few moments to read the following articles. They capture the spirit of this joyous time of year.

    The Man and the Birds
    by Paul Harvey

    The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

    “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

    Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

    Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

    Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

    And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

    “If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

    At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

    And he sank to his knees in the snow.
    by Lawrence Meyers

    The actual story of Hanukkah has its roots in the years 200 – 166 B.C. The Greeks and Syrians had effectively taken control of Judea (the Land of Israel) and King Antiochus III of Syria originally permitted Jews to continue practicing their own religion.

    Alas, his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the opposite approach. In 168 B.C., the Second Temple of Jerusalem was taken over and statues of Greek gods – including Zeus – were erected.

    Judah Maccabee led a rebellion and in 166 B.C., ran the Syrians out of town, cleansed the Second Temple, and rededicated the temple using a menorah. The seven branches in this candlelabrum represented knowledge and creation, and were supposed to be lit each and every night — and left burning throughout the night.

    But there was a problem, because there was only one day’s worth of oil to burn and it would take a full eight days before more oil could reach the Temple. The Jews lit the menorah anyway, yet it burned for eight consecutive days. This is regarded as a miracle.

    How can modern-day Jews or, for that matter, individuals of any faith (or even atheists) find relevance in this story? As with many biblical stories, there are so many rich interpretations and symbols to anchor ourselves to and enhance our daily lives.

    Have you ever been entranced while watching a candle or a fire in your fireplace? Just stared at them for a few moments? What you are looking at is, in one way, a miracle of its own. “And God said, ‘Let there by light.’”

    The flickering flames are a direct link to the birth of the universe. Whether conducted by a divine force or just the right combination of physics and energy, the universe gave birth to light.

    We use the words “enlightenment” and “illumination” and “inspiration,” all of which derive from words linked to light or divine guidance. So when you light the Hanukkah candles — or when atheists light regular candles from time to time — take a few moments. Turn out any other lights in the room and ponder what you see. Reflect upon yourself and in those moments, seek out inspiration and illumination.

    What problem troubles you? Seek an answer in that moment. Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, but for whatever reason, never actually set in motion? Take these moments and think about how you would take the first step towards that goal.

    Ask yourself in that moment: Who do you love, and have you told them what they mean to you? Think about what they have brought to your life, and what words you would share with them.

    One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is telling them how they have impacted our lives.

    Artists and other creatives might use these moments to turn their imagination loose. Reach into that divine space inside and seek a challenge that will push you beyond what you’ve done to date.

    Sometimes, though, just letting your mind free-associate will lead you to unexpected places. What images come to your mind? What places? What times? Which people? Rest in those images and let yourself feel something. God granted us feelings, yet our culture teaches us to suppress them. Let them come to life.

    Finally, remember that a menorah not only holds light, it spreads it to others. Take whatever wisdom you find and share it with others. Let your shining character on the inside be reflected in your actions in the outside world.

    Just as the arms of the menorah stretch forth from the center, let your illumination carry to others, and let theirs carry to you.

    Happy Hanukkah
    No matter how you honor and celebrate this holiday season, we wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HANUKKAH!
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