Well, with Thanksgiving yesterday, we’ve taken a bit of a break from the readings we have had all week from the book of Maccabees. Today we rejoin the story but it seems things are quite different. On Monday, we heard about King Antiochus Epiphanes and his repulsive plan to blot out the Jewish way of life, with all of its traditions and laws, and with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in favor of making alliance with the Gentiles and observing their base way of life and worshiping their many gods. On Tuesday and Wednesday, upright Jews are choosing death rather than give in to the demands that they eat pork and offer sacrifice to these gods. And today, there is great rejoicing. So what have we missed?
What we missed was Thursday’s story about Mattathias and his sons, brave men who were filled with zeal for the law and for God. They put to death those who gave in to the demands of the Gentiles and they waged war on their oppressors. They were so successful that Judas and his brothers are able to celebrate victory today. Today, right on the heels of Thanksgiving, we see a thanksgiving celebration of another kind.
All week long, the message we were getting was that there is something more. Maybe eating a little pork, or tossing a few grains of incense on a coal in worship of an alien god would save one’s life, but upright Jews like Eleazar, and the Maccabean brothers insisted that that life was not a life worth living. The something more to life is our relationship with God, and living without God is not really living at all. Living without God divorces us from who we are and forces us to live in a vacuum.
Today we can celebrate that our identity as children of God is worth fighting for, or even dying for. We give thanks with Judas and his brothers that God has called us to be his children, that he will not abandon us, and that he gives us the grace not to abandon him and abandon who we are. God is faithful and sovereign and if we persevere, we can rededicate the Temple of our lives to the God who made us and gave us life.