Faith Matters Dec. 17, 2011
Rabbi Thomas Gardner will be celebrating Hanukkah this year in much the same way he celebrated as a child in New York, spending time with family, lighting the menorah and sharing gifts.
“I have good memories of Hanukkah growing up,” said Gardner, of Beth Shalom Synagogue.
The eight-day Hanukkah holiday starts Wednesday. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.
It falls on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which ranges from late November to late December on the secular calendar.
Gardner said because of its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has increasingly been challenged by the same problems as Christmas: too much focus on the gifts and not enough focus on the reason for the season.
Gardner said he understands that stores make such an effort to come in the black.
“Unfortunately, that subtracts from the meaning of Christmas and the same is true with Hanukkah,” he said. “It has become where you buy presents for everyone instead of families getting together, and in the case of Hanukkah, being grateful for the miracle that was done when Jews were able to defeat the Assyrians, and for Christians being grateful for the birth of Jesus.”
That commercialization can be especially hard to explain to Jewish children, Gardner said.
“Here in the United States, it’s kind of like all Christmas all of the time,” he said.
“It’s hard for little kids when they see other kids have their Santa Claus,” the rabbi said. “The Jewish kids would feel a little envious, so they decided to sort of make Hanukkah to compete with Christmas.”
But that would hardly be any competition, because Hanukkah is just not as high on the list of Jewish holidays as Christmas is to others.
“It’s sort of a minor holiday,” Gardner said. “There are some holidays we’re not allowed to work and there’s special prayer for them; that’s not the case with Hanukkah.”
That doesn’t mean Hanukkah isn’t special. It still brings families together for fun, games, parties, gifts and special foods. Garner said it will also bring worshippers together for a special service Friday at the synagogue where families are encouraged to bring and light their menorahs.
‘Carols Through the Ages’
The annual Christmas Cantata at Trinity Lutheran Church continues two of the great traditions of the Lutheran church: fine music celebrating the birth of Christ and sharing the Gospel of Christ, said the Rev. David Buss, the church’s pastor.
The musical event “Carols Through the Ages” will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday at the church, 10925 Florida Blvd. A candlelight reception for the community will follow Saturday’s performance.
“Everything we do at Trinity, we try to think about how it going to serve the community (and) how this is going to communicate the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to others,” Buss said. “That’s what we’re about.”
“Carols Through the Ages” includes a broad spectrum of music dating back to the eighth century, said Trinity music director Kathi Calamari.
“It’s a celebration of carols that people have been singing all down through the ages since the birth of Christ,” Calamari said. “The angels sang at Jesus’ birth, and we’re still singing about it.”
The Trinity choir will be joined by its children’s choir, an orchestra of LSU students and other local talent, Calamari said.
The church has been hosting the cantata since 1983, said Buss, who became pastor in August but has attended a couple of cantatas at the church.
“The advent season just builds up to this,” he said. “It’s the highlight of our Christmas season.”
A case for Christ
Well-known as an attorney, Gordon McKernan is also proud to be known as a devout Christian and not afraid to show it.
McKernan, a personal injury attorney with Gordon McKernan Injury Lawyers, seeks to show his faith in all aspects of his life.
“My faith means that everyday I need to continue to build upon the foundation that hopefully I’ve built the day before and continue to grow stronger in my faith,” said McKernan, a member of Christ Covenant Church on Lee Drive. “That’s not so much in speech but more in action and deed. That’s what the Bible tells us to do.
“Whether you’re a law firm handing out Bibles with every settlement — every client gets a check and a Bible — or at my house and trying to instill in my children Christians or having neighborhood Bible studies, hopefully, it will go across all parts of my life that my Christian faith is evidence to those who look at me and see it.”
McKernan, 45, said being so forthcoming — including stating his beliefs on his website — about being a Christian has led to a few instances of people questioning if he would be tough enough and would do anything necessary to win a case.
“I’ve had that happen to me on a couple of occasions in what I would call bigger cases,” he said. “There have been times where people would pass over me because of that. They may have a stereotype that a Christian lawyer is a going to be mild and meek and won’t fight.”
McKernan recently published a booklet titled “Who is Your Lawyer” in which he talks about sin, repentance and how to come in contact with the “ultimate lawyer” Jesus Christ.
The well-done booklet reads like an evangelistic tract and touts a message of “hope, love and salvation.” It follows the fictional trial of defendant McKernan represented by his lawyer (Jesus) before the judge (God). Lucifer serves as prosecutor.
“Despite the overwhelming evidence against me, I still felt pretty good because I knew that I had the Lawyer who had never lost a case. He was undefeated,” McKernan writes.
McKernan, a Baton Rouge native and graduate of LSU and Loyola University Law School, concludes with a personal appeal to readers to accept Christ.
For a free booklet mailed out to you, call (225) 926-1234.
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