The earliest festival of Hanukkah is likely the feast held to celebrate and rededicate the Jerusalem Temple in 165 BCE. Eight days were set aside to give thanks for how God made restoration possible. How, by a miracle of God, the small supply of oil continued to burn for eight days.
This year, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will coincide for the first time since President Lincoln was in the White House and declared a national Day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War. And, because of the difference in how time is measured, it won’t happen again for a long time. Having Thanksgiving and the festival of Hanukkah come together offers us as Christians a great opportunity to remember, along with our Jewish sisters and brothers, how God provides.And for us all to join with our family and friends in giving thanks for God’s abundance.
In Korean culture, we also celebrate a version of Thanksgiving.We call it Chusok. This year it was celebrated on September 18-20, but like Hanukkah, it is based on a lunar calendar. For most people in Korea, it is the favorite of all the holidays. The celebration goes back at least 2,000 years. Chusok means Harvest Moon Festival, but it is now also sometimes referred to as Korean Thanksgiving.In our tradition, Koreans thank their ancestors for the year’s harvest.It is a very busy time, just like Thanksgiving in the U.S., as people journey to visit their families and home towns, and share gifts with friends and co-workers.
Thanksgiving for followers of Jesus Christ is a way of living in response to the gift of God’s love poured out for us in Christ. It is the understanding that every day, and all it contains, is a gift to be celebrated and shared with joy and grace.We even give thanks for those days filled with pain or grief or loss--especially those days. As we prepare and celebrate, we remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,(NRSV), Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).