Community Columnists

KEEPING THE FAITH | Appreciate the diversity of holiday celebrations

The Rev. Lewis Macklin
The Rev. Lewis Macklin

One thing the pandemic has taught us is how to reinvent and readjust accordingly.

We have discovered even our holiday celebrations and traditions don’t need to be elaborate or complex. We have found creative ways to connect and communicate despite approaching the second year of the pandemic. We have tried to balance the use of technology without supplanting our need for each other.

The simple things have become the most meaningful such as sharing family dinners or spending time with each other.

It is my hope that we continue to express appreciation to God before, during and after the Holy Days which are upon us. This is usually a time when we gather together with family and friends while reflecting upon God’s goodness. Yet the purpose of Holy Days is shrouded in the hopes that we continue to embrace and live out the spirit of the occasion daily, not seasonal, in our lives.

Within our present celebrations are inherently a commemoration of the past and a challenge for our future endeavors.

The true essence of how to celebrate as a community to me can be found in Acts 2. The disciples were active in their faith and many miracles were happening. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

It was evident by word and deed that there were four practices or behaviors necessary to bring about this season of thanksgiving in the early church. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching which was based upon the Word of God. They devoted themselves to the fellowship which developed and strengthen by organizing the Church. Then they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and shared what they had creating community.

Finally, they devoted themselves to prayer which was needed time with God.

The message of consumerism has been trumpeted for us to spend, spend and spend some more! Yet, I remain convinced that we need to spend more TIME, not more money commemorating special days! Still looking for the perfect gift for that someone who has everything? Why not consider giving a Gift of Time? You can download and print out a voucher of time and give it to family members, friends and even organizations!

Festival of Lights Events

We can appreciate and not appropriate the diversity in our community. Christmas, whether recognized in its sacred or secular contexts, is not universally celebrated by those who are Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian, Buddhist, Hindu or other faiths. I encourage you to consider experiencing how other cultures celebrate special occasions as a way to foster and promote understanding. The rich history and legacy that has been forged out of secular and sacred traditions is an opportunity for exposure.

Celebrating our differences is something we need to do more often, but we need to learn to approach it in a respectful way. Asking a friend probing questions could lead to your broader understanding of the world around you and how it might influence you as an individual.

I encourage you to listen and share the context of your own cultural experiences. We can learn so much from each other. The beauty of diversity is amazing to see similarities and differences between our cultures and to see what makes us individuals. When you seek to understand a differing culture’s traditions and practices, you expand your knowledge and broaden your understanding of the people around you.

This evening concludes the eight-day observance of Hanukkah, which celebrates freedom and liberation. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, is often called the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah recounts the triumph of good over evil, where literally light wins out over darkness. Hanukkah celebrates the re-sanctifying of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem by Jewish warriors. According to legend, the warriors had enough sanctified oil to burn for one day, but it burned for eight instead! This is why Hanukkah is eight days and includes candle lighting. The occasion is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.

A community Hanukkah celebration will be at 4 p.m. today at the Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom temple located at 1119 Elm St. For information or to RSVP, contact Jenny Lloyd at 330-744-5001 or office@congregationrodefsholom.org

HANUKKAH BLESSINGS: May this festival of lights bring blessings upon you and your loved ones for happiness, peace and health. Blessed are You, Hashem our God, Sovereign of all, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Kwanzaa 2021-2022 will be celebrated virtually this year with limited in-person access. The principle of Umoja, which means Unity, will be highlighted on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 5 p.m. Pastor Kenneth Simon and the New Bethel Baptist Church, 1507 Hillman St., will host the event. The evening will feature participation by the Harambee Youth Organization, music, dancing and other cultural expressions.

The service will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of New Bethel Baptist Church. Due to the pandemic, there will NOT be the traditional Karamu Community Feast. You are encouraged to celebrate the remaining evenings of Kwanzaa at home. The Community Kwanzaa Celebration is sponsored by Harambee of Youngstown Inc. and New Bethel Baptist Church, along with its partners Beulah Baptist Church, Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

Tis the Season

Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, the uncertainties facing a new year, concerns of a fragile economy and yet another emerging COVID-19 variant, may I interject a beautiful four-letter word: REST! Take the time to enjoy a season of rest for restoration and reflection. It has been noted that “Daniel slept in a lion’s den, Peter slept in a prison cell and Jesus slept in a storm. No matter your circumstances, you can take a nap!”

I am praying for those who struggle with anxiety, depression and worry so that you would be free from all distractions and experiences to remain productive! Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Lay your worries and anxiety at His feet. When you are seemingly crushed by your fears and worries, remember God’s power and grace. May he fill you with His peace as you trust in Him alone.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” May you draw strength from the first three words utter of this text by the Lord, “For I know”

Just knowing that HE KNOWS helps us embrace every moment and keep the faith.

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and eight grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.

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