Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!!

Oliver's Menorah
Silas working on his Menorah
Gideon and his Menorah
December 1st at sundown, marked the beginning of the first day of Hanukkah. We're trying to do a little something every evening. The first night, we lite our one candle - which we found, is very anti-climatic when you've got 8 all lined up.

There is so much more to Hanukkah than I realized when I started thinking about celebrating it with the kids. I want to write this to explain a little of what I've gotten out of this Holiday, and what I'm trying to pass on to the boys.

When Antiochus Epiphanes, leader of the Greek army, invaded Jerusalem, he didn't knock the Temple down like others before him. Instead, he erected an idol (of Zeus, I believe) and sacrificed a pig, desecrating the temple. The Israelites were no longer allowed to study the Torah. His attack was at the strongest and best point in Jewish culture - Love the Lord your God and worship Him only.

During the occupation of the Greeks, many still found ways to study the Torah. They would huddle in small groups teaching and learning until a Greek soldier walked their way. Then they would pull out their spinning tops (dreidels) and the Greeks would see nothing but several young boys playing a game. They also put Hebrew letters on the dreidels to help children learn the Hebrew alphabet. The dreidels we use today have the Hebrew letters: nun, gimel, hey, shin. which stand for the words Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means a Great Miracle Happened There!

Eventually, Judah Maccabee lead a small band of Israelistes against the mighty Greek army and finally drove them out. Their first priority was to cleanse and dedicate the temple to the One true God. Lighting the menorah was part of dedicating the temple, but there was only 1 days worth of oil for the lamp. It took 8 days to prepare new oil. What a beautiful picture of what we have to give to the Lord and what He can do with it.

How often do we feel that what we have to offer the Lord is not enough to get the job done...and of course, it isn't. His faithfulness carries us, and the little we have to give, through until the miraculous has occurred.

The little oil they had lasted the eight days that they needed it to. Now we celebrate for 8 days and light 8 candles to remember the miracle that God did. We light the eight candles with the shamash candle in the middle of the menorah. Shamash means servant and it represents the King of Kings who came as a servant and brought light to the world.

But why was the oil important? Why was the battle fought in the first place? To cleanse and dedicate the temple to One true God so that His Spirit could once again reside there. Today, the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every believer. There are times when we need to look at our hearts and ask ourselves: Am I worshiping anything other than Jesus? Do I have any idols in my life? Am I keeping the first commandment first?

I've also used this opportunity to talk about the end times with Oliver. If you ask him who prophesied about Antiocus Epiphanes, he will tell you...Daniel, yeah the one who was thrown into the lion's den! The prophecy that Daniel gave us about Antiocus was so incredibly accurate that many secular scholars think that there is no way the book of Daniel, or at least that chapter, could have been written before the time of Antiocus.

There is another prophecy right-smack-dab against the one about Antiocus, about another evil man who the book of Revelation calls the Anti-Christ. Because these two prophecies are so close together and because the one about Antiocus was so profoundly accurate, we can assume that Daniel's prophecy about the Anti-Christ is equally literal and accurate.

Antiocus and the time of the Greek occupation was, in fact, a foreshadowing of the Anti-Christ and the happenings of the end of this age. The desecration of the Temple, the complacency of the Church when the occupation began, having to hide to study the word of God.

I hope my children have gotten a fraction of what I have learned from celebrating Hanukkah...if not, that's ok because we will definitely be doing it again next year.
Oh, I forgot to mention, that traditionally you eat fried food, like latkes (potato pancakes) and homemade doughnuts in honor of the oil...who doesn't love that!?!

Please forgive me for this poorly written blog. It took me forever because of several distractions and when I finally got a chance to sit down in a quiet house and write it was very late. I hope you enjoyed it regardless of the choppy writing and misspelled words.

Oh yeah, and this just plain fun!