Which way do YOU spell it? And why would I even wonder, not being the least bit Jewish?
Several years ago, a gentleman at church handed me a paper he had written on the significance to us Christians of the events that occurred around 167 B.C. and which sparked the annual memorial of Hanukkah. I looked at him with a great deal of skepticism (and a little sadness, for I was sure he was some sort of weird fanatic), but I took the paper home and read it anyway. Then I googled the topic to death to make sure he had his facts straight. By the end of the exercise, I was so excited about the miracle performed and its obvious footprints leading up to God's plan for our salvation that I couldn't wait until the next Hanukkah to teach my kids about it! I'd paste the whole document in here, but I'd have to get his permission, which would mean I'd have to tell him where my blog is, and then I wouldn't be Mrs. Anonymous Queenofthehill anymore. So, if you'd like to read the thing, just let me know and I'll send it to you in its entirety. He told me long ago I could share it that way. Meanwhile, I'll just use excerpts.
So without further ado, from another source, here's the short version of what happened:
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is sometimes in November and sometimes in December on the Gregorian calendar). In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication."
In 168 B.C.E. the Jews' holy
Some Jews were afraid of the Greek soldiers and obeyed them, but most were angry and decided to fight back.
About a year after the rebellion started, Mattathias died. Before his death, he put his brave son Judah Maccabee in charge of the growing army. After three years of fighting, the Jews defeated the Greek army, despite having fewer men and weapons.
I had always believed that Hanukkah was a celebration of some long-ago military victory for the Jews and why should I care about that? But what is actually remembered at Hanukkah is the miracle of the oil which enabled the rededication of the temple [of Jesus].
But the gentleman who wrote the paper says it best:
"If there had not been a re-dedication of the Temple before Jesus came, that is after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanies, there would have been no Temple in which Jesus could be dedicated to God (Luke 2:25 -32). There would have been no
I am thankful for the Maccabees and that God gave them success in battles against overwhelming odds. I am thankful God's
It is important to note that it does not have the same status of the Holy Days of Leviticus 23, although it is mentioned in the bible. Another quote from the paper:
"You may be surprised to learn that when Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, He was in the
So how do I know it was at Hanukkah that this happened? Notice this casual mention, so easy to overlook, which is found in verse 22 of John chapter 10:
And it was at
Hanukkah is the feast of dedication spoken of here. It refers to the re-dedication of the
Some who fear anything which seems too "Jewish" and don't want to admit Jesus observed Hanukkah might tell you John 10:22 is talking about the Feast of Tabernacles. Their claim to authority for such a claim is based upon the fact that Solomon's
It is interesting that Jesus chose this occasion to heal a blind man. Notice what the scriptures have to say about the eye:
MAT 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light.
Hanukkah is a festival of lights. This because of the miracle of the oil needed to purify the
As I said, I was hooked. As a Christian, I've tended to overlook how the Jewish traditions impacted Jesus' messages to us. I do observe the biblical Holy Days, but sans the parts that are just "tradition." I'm a fan of sticking to the bible.
So what about the symbols of Hanukkah? They are great teaching and retention tools for children. The menorah is self-explanatory; you light one additional candle each day (plus the one in the middle which you use to light the others) until all 8 candles are lit on the final evening. Makes sense, since the oil miraculously lasted 8 days. And what of those weird little dreidels? The symbols on each side together add up to "A great miracle happened there." (If you are in Israel, they instead say "A great miracle happened HERE.") They were invented as a toy to teach children the Hebrew language in a time when it was forbidden. The game is played with candy or coins and you win or lose depending on which symbol is facing up on your turn. And the latkes you hear so much about? Their only significance is that they are made from oil -- oil to remind you again of the miracle. Potatoes didn't exist in Israel in the time of the Maccabees.
So, how do the King and I celebrate Hanukkah? Not being Jewish, we don't see any reason to follow the strict tradition of the Jews in doing so. We read the story of the Maccabees to the kids, usually on the first night (tonight!). We emphasize that this all made it possible for Christ to be in that Temple to do His great work and note how this was over a hundred years before that and isn't it wonderful how God has worked so many miracles to send us our Savior. We light the candles at some point near sunset each night (if we're home) for 8 nights because we think it is a great teaching tool to show the kids how long this miracle extended. It can be hard for them to picture what a big deal 8 days is. If possible, we join with another Christian family we know for one meal at some arbitrary point within the 8 days and experiment with the interesting traditional foods and let the kids play dreidel together. We emphasize what "a great miracle happened there." We do not give gifts to each other or to the children.
So these days, we view Hanukkah as yet another tool in our arsenal of teaching the kids about God. Since we have incorporated this memorial into our calendar, we have met several other Christian families or individuals who recognize the time in some way or another. Have you?
Irrelevant Side note: I traveled to Israel long ago and noticed the local beer was called "Maccabee," so there's another mystery cleared up!