In composing these greetings, I first was inclined to mention the theme of light shining in the darkness that both observances share, but then I realized how this motif reflects (pun intended) the reality of the winter solstice in northern latitudes, which, of course, is opposite the situation of our friends basking in the summer sun of the Southern Hemisphere!
Next I considered the imbalance in the relative importance of the two observances in Judaism and Christianity, with Hanukkah being among the minor Jewish festivals in comparison with the Nativity as one of the two most important Christian feasts. Moreover, they are not religiously connected the way that Pesach and Pascha are. This asymmetry contributes to what is called in many countries "the December dilemma," which is exacerbated by the voracious commercialization of Christmas. So what would be a meaningful way to express interreligious good wishes at this time of year?
Upon further thought, a deeper, underlying spiritual affinity between the two celebrations became apparent.
For Jews, Hanukkah is a reminder that the Presence of the Holy One can be discerned in human history. Even after periods of great distress the restorative power of the covenant with the Holy One manifests itself anew.
For Christians, the incarnation of the divine Word in a Jewish human being reveals that the intensity of the Holy One's loving-kindness (ḥesed) is so great as to enter into the human condition as intimately as can be imagined.
So let us pause amid the distractions at the end of 2014 to recall – in our respective tradition's ways – that the Holy One is with us. And may this realization inspire us to continue in promoting peace and mutual understanding during the coming year.
A blessed 2015 to us all!
(Philip A. Cunningham; ICCJ President)