“Liberating the Light,” A Sermon for the Hanukah Season


The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein


*Correction: the quote that I attributed to “a rabbi” was actually by Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

This is a nice, short sermon that I had an emotional connection to even though I never quite got the structure clear on it. It’s a weird one… I’m talking about the light and sacrifice and then BAM out of nowhere I make this abrupt transition into talking about the holidays. Then I take the congregation on a big, huge happy loop way around the subject before I get back to the tough stuff about light and sacrifice. I am truly fortunate that they are such good listeners and willing to take the ride with me.

I wanted SO badly to weave in the story of Moses and the burning bush here. I tried and tried but I just couldn’t find a way to make my point in a brief fashion to a congregation that might not be familiar with this image in Scripture. I wanted to use “the bush burned but was not consumed” as a kind of exclamation point or a grinding of salt on the top of the dish, you know, but I wound up having to do all of this explanation of the Scripture passage, setting it in context, and that killed the rhythm of how I wanted to use it. I hate sermons that contain too many big expositions so I try not to do that to my own congregation.

It’s a shame because it’s such a brilliant moment –a way of saying, “We burn and are consumed but God is not.” But you can’t pop that at a congregation for whom this image of the burning bush might be unfamiliar or confusing and expect them to get it. It’s not fair. And so I cut that piece.

We could all write a bajillion sermons about the metaphor of light, you know? But I was so taken with Frankl’s quote — the exact thing he said is, “What is to give light must endure the burning.” I couldn’t remember where I had seen it for the life of me. Of course I found the quote the day after I delivered the sermon. But it stayed with me for a good week after I read it. I couldn’t shake it. Still can’t. This is one of those times you wish you had about a year to think about something before speaking about it, but I liked it enough to want to share it right away as an idea. We can always delve more deeply into it later.

Thanks for listening.

One Reply to ““Liberating the Light,” A Sermon for the Hanukah Season”

  1. This reminds me of the quote from The Prophet about the lute that was hollowed out with knives being what makes beautiful music.

    Do people really not know the story of the Burning Bush? Wow. [I think it’s vaguely familiar but wouldn’t resonate as a meaningful image without a good deal more context. – PB]

    I assumed that the bush was not consumed because God was not actually a fire, but a manifestation that looked liked fire. It’s a classic bit of apophatic theology (it is not fire, not light, not darkness, etc.) [Yea, that’s cool! – PB]

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