Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why We're celebrating Hanukkah.

We are doing something new this year! We are celebrating Hanukkah! I know, I know we're not Jewish, but last year I saw a menorah on clearance at Target and something prompted me to buy it. I thought about what on earth I was going to do with that Menorah all year.

As I started studying Hanukkah (a holiday I knew very little about), I actually started wondering why I haven't been celebrating this holiday my entire life. The history of this holiday is an amazing testament to the work God was doing during those silent years in the Bible. There is a 400 year gap in between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I'm not a Bible scholar, so I just always assumed there wasn't anything important happening in those years...oh but there was.

You know what the Jewish faith has done well for centuries?? They have festivals and celebrations to remember what God has done for them. Even in Old Testament times they would have feasts that would last for days to remind themselves of the miracles that God did in their midst. They were able to pass down their faith from generation to generation because they were purposeful in celebrating and remembering God's work. As followers of Jesus we could do much better at remembering and celebrating the things God has done in our lives. And that's the purpose behind our own Hanukkah celebration (more on that in a minute).
Quick History Lesson:
Disclaimer: This is not a perfect recap of the history of Hanukkah. I should spend a lot more time studying this, but this is the basic gist of the story that I shared with my kids. This is from some books and internet sources. I'm just a mom, not a Jewish historian.

A Syrian/Greek King named Antichus decided that he didn't want the Jews to worship their God. So he kicked them out of their temple and desecrated the temple by slaughtering a pig on the alter and by putting a statue of Zeus in the temple.
A group of people said to their fellow Jews, “Hey, enough here! We cannot accept this impurity of putting a pagan god into the Temple, of eating non-kosher, of disobeying the Bible, of being immodest. That’s not the culture in which we were brought up. We’re not going to take this anymore — we’re going to stand up for the Jewish values and the Bible that brought us to this place.” A group called the Maccabees, led by a man named Mattathias and his brothers, revolted against King Antichus. There were five brother (just five) who stood up to a Kind and an entire army. Five guys got together, stood up for righteousness and against all odds changed history! (Whoa..there's some huge lessons there).
The first miracle is that the Maccabees were victorious over King Antichus' much stronger and bigger army! The second miracle took place when they reclaimed the temple and they started to clean the temple out. In the Temple, an eternal flame had to stay lit all the time. Walk into any synagogue today and you will see something commemorating that eternal flame, though now it’s usually a light bulb. This signifies that God’s presence is there all the time, in the same way that we light an eternal flame in memory of a president or great person to signify that their spirit never dies. But when they came into the Temple to light the eternal flame, there was only one flask of clean, pure olive oil to use, just enough to keep the flame burning for one day. Only pure oil could be used — not oil that had been touched by the pagans and used for sacrifices to the pagan gods. There would not be enough oil, as it would take eight days to go out and get more.
But they went ahead and lit the flame anyway, which sends a beautiful message of trusting in God. Some might have said, “Why bother? It will go out anyway after a day, and then we’ll have to wait for the oil.” But they trusted in God, and a miracle occurred — the lamp that was only to last for one day stayed lit for eight days until the new oil arrived. This is how Hanukkah became the “Festival of Lights.”

Major stuff to teach your kids about Hanukkah:
 1. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, which makes sense because Jesus was Jewish. John 10:22-23 mentions it being the "Feast of Dedication" which is what we now call Hanukkah and it says that Jesus was at the temple. Jews went to the temple to remember and celebrate the miracle that God did 200 years prior to Jesus' birth.
2. Jesus didn't celebrate Christmas (**Gasp** This was shocking to my kids). Okay, so maybe Mary and Joseph celebrated Jesus' birthday...I don't really know. But no one during the time that Jesus was alive actually celebrated Christmas. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.
Jesus didn't celebrate Christmas - Christmas celebrates Jesus!

How we are celebrating Hanukkah:
1. For the first night we made a craft (so they would have something to do while I told them the story of Hanukkah). There are also some decent youtube videos that we watched and NO they did not include Adam Sandler!

2. Each night (for 8 nights) we are lighting the Menorah.

3. When we light the Menorah we are choosing one story each night to tell about a miracle God has done for our family. We are celebrating and remembering the amazing things God has done for us. My kids don't have very many stories to tell. But I have stories that I can tell them of miracles that have taken place in my life and in their lives. Last night I asked them to tell me a miracle story... both Christian and McKenna were quick to tell the story of God healing Will's finger. That's the greatest miracle they've ever witnessed and it's something they both remember. The details of the night he got hurt are still fresh in their minds. Tonight I told them the miracle of Christian's birth. They had heard it before, but it's so good to remember and celebrate what God has done.

4. After we talk about the miracle God has done in our lives, we pray and thank God for working in our lives and we invite Him and ask Him to continue to work in our lives.

5. Then we open a small present! That's the celebration part!

I think I've got the Dreidel game figured out, so we're going to give that a try tomorrow! should do this! It's so much fun to learn something new and try something different! Do you think you don't have any miracles to talk about or share about with your kids?? Every single time God answers a prayer, that's a miracle. It doesn't have to be some big parting of the Red Sea moment. It can be His whisper of Peace when you are going through a challenging time.

Tomorrow my story is going to be about the time a mechanic told me it was going to cost $2000 to fix my car. It turned out to be a $30 fix. I prayed and prayed that God would fix my car because I didn't have $2000. I was pregnant with Christian and I was about to quit my job and I remember second guessing my decision to be a stay-at-home mom because I was worried about how to pay that car repair bill and that was while I was working. What on earth would I do if something went wrong while I wasn't working? To this day, I think God fixed my car to increase my faith and give me the courage to quit my job.

And the next day, they're going to hear about the time I was in a head on collision and how I am CERTAIN that God protected Christian (he was a baby) and miraculously intervened in our lives so he wouldn't be in the car at that moment.

Happy Hanukkah!
"Shalom Aleikhem"


Courtney Cassada said...

i LOVE this, judy! i'm going to think on it some...but would love to share the history of this holiday with my kids in some way!

Leighann said...

I like this idea, too, Judy. Might have to look at the clearance aisles at Target. :)