Friday, December 11, 2009

Why we celebrate Hanukah and why I think you should as well

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah
Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the hora
Gather round the table, we'll all have a treat
dreidles to play with, and latkes to eat.

And while we are playing
The candles are burning bright
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of days long ago.
One for each night, they shed a sweet light
To remind us of days long ago.

I have to admit, when I first started dating my husband five years ago, and even before that, for the two years we were little more than pen pals, his "Jewishness" fascinated me. It was all so different, and foreign. Over the past few years, especially since he became a Christian we together have found some amazing bridges between the two cultures. Bridging the culture gap isn't so difficult. Everyone loves a festive, beautiful tree, and who would love a latke given the chance to try one? Seriously.. you eat fried potatoes all the time anyway... season it up, flatten it into a pancake and eat it with applesauce and sour cream.. you get bliss. Especially when it has been prepared by my mother in law!

The gap that gets a little more difficult to bridge is the "religious" one. How do you balance a household that seems to have two opposing beliefs? I've read many books on this, and some of my favorites are by a man named Stan Telchin. He, Jew, had a daughter go off to college and return a Christian.His response was to learn and study and ask as many people as many questions as he could. He wanted to prove that she was brainwashed. He instead found Jesus.

At this time of year there is a lot of talk about peace. Peace that in reality does not exist in our world. We can go shopping and max out credit cards to fill the space under our trees (and in our hearts). We can turn bitterabout the unbalance of respect for both faiths and fly to Hawaii to avoid the whole season... But what if we all, Jews and Christians alike took a moment to understand each others faith, and instead of battling against each others holidays.. what if we celebrated them both??

Here is a list of why I think Christians should celebrate Hanukkah. I would make one the other way around, but am afraid this list is going to do enough offending for the day.

1. Although from the moment of Christ's birth there has been tension between the two faiths, and horrible horrible atrocities have been committed by greedy power seeking peoples in the name of a "christian god" we ultimately are the two leading religions in America. We stream from the same foundation. We serve the very same God. We boast the same ten commandments in our homes and tell our children of the very same Abraham, Moses, Daniel and David. We even teach some of the same songs to our children. Imagine my surprise when my husband knew more verses of the song "Father Abraham, had many sons,many sons had father Abraham..." than I did. For religious Jews we face a common enemy. The same bleak loss of faith is haunting both of our communities. The same efforts to turn to the self for Glory and away from our true King is rotting out both of our congregations. We need to support each other. Christians.. dare I remind you that scripture points out that it is a Jewish army from the tribes of Israel that God will use to fight the battles in the final days? We need each other. We need to let go of prejudices from BOTH sides and move forward together. We need to protect our faiths from dilution and the incorporation of "feels good" philosophies.

2. Hanukkah is more historical than Christmas. BLASPHEMY.... or is it? Actually, Hanukkah has been celebrated since around 165 BC. Israel had been taken over by the Seleucid empire,leftovers from Alexander the Great. Hellenists. Menelaus,a non Jew, was places as high priest over the Jews, a sacred position reserved for Levites, and the temple was defiled. It became unlawful to hold Jewish feats , to circumcise or even to sacrifice. A small group of Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, decided to fight back. Using guerrilla tactics they eventually won back their temple, but upon arrival did not have enough sacred oil to keep the lamps lit. To what purpose is rededicating a temple when you cant do it in a Holy way? The process for making anything kosher is long and extensive, and to make the oil pure for the temple took approximately eight days. Amazingly, God allowed one days worth of oil to burn for eight. He not only freed his people from the cultural washing of their faith (much like what we face today), but through his miraculous provision, he allowed the temple to be a holy place again,even when they could not provide it themselves. How like our God huh? Every time things get tough he provides a way out, a Holy way out. A way that brings Him glory, and brings us Light. The story, the tradition has changed very little over the thousands of years it has existed.

3. By understanding Jewish tradition, we as Christians understand our faith even better. Even the New Testament makes reference to Hanukkah. John 10:22 Jesus is in full force action during his ministry. He is traveling everywhere, but returns to Jerusalem for the "Feast of Dedication" HANUKKAH. He returns to the temple, not just any day of the week, but during the very feast that recognizes the Holiness of the temple, of His people, and of our God.A feast that remembers that God will provide a way to keep his temple Holy, no matter what. Jesus was not beating around the bush. Back in chapter 8 we can read that Jesus had already been telling people "I am the light of the world." He returned to Jerusalem during the festival of lights to once again restore light to the Temple, but this time not from oil. From He himself. Now do you see why they were so very angry? Why they would want to stone him ?(vs 10:31). He was deliberately revealing himself and causing dissension between His followers and those who refused to believe. "You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and the follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish,no one can ever snatch them from my hand." (10:26-28). We as Christians celebrate the promises that God will rebuild his Temple,that we ourselves are that Temple. That because of the sacrifice of Jesus we are able to be that temple. We believe that he will return and make all things new. That the temple will be rededicated. That WE will be redicated.

So celebrate. Personally I do it by lighting beautiful candles and eating yummy food. Because my King has established his Temple. My King is not dead nor sleeping, and he is keeping all of His candles burning bright... if we don't blow them out.

A note to my Jewish Reader: please do not let this offend you.I mean no disrespect. I honestly believe that even if you don't believe Jesus is the Messiah, that the Messiah you are waiting for WILL come, he is on his way. Please don't forget that! Don't let worldly influences damage your faith or weaken your beliefs. Keep yourself Holy, and seek to follow the Law. I pray that you will ask questions though, and consider for yourself if the prophesies of Isaiah were pointing towards Jesus. If you choose not to, I still consider you family. We serve the same God, may his peace be with you in this season. May the festival of lights bring you joy and remind you that our God is a God of love and miracles, that he loves you enough to keep the candles lit. 165 B.C.E. or today.


  1. These are some of the same reasons why I love celebrating a Seder feast. It is saddening, though, because I feel our Jewish friends miss out on how much more meaning there is for them in these celebrations than they're allowing.

    By the way...I wish I had an iphone, but no such luck! :(

  2. Emily,

    Thank you so much for you kind and understanding words on my blog. It was very encouraging and it is true that my blog has become my "scrapbook" and record of events and stuff that makes up life. There is just so much more I want to write about and I get self-conscious about my audience that I wonder if I should take that stuff somewhere else. Does that make sense? Anyways, I hope you are all well! Take care and Merry Christmas!