So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt-offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving-offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev. (I Maccabees 4:55-59)
This year Hanukkah begins tonight (like all Jewish Holy-Days it is a lunar calculation, and so moves each year) at sundown, and ends at sundown on December 24th. What a wonderful opportunity for us to wish a Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish neighbours, our sisters and brothers. Jesus, his family, and all his first disciples were Jewish, of course, and would have celebrated this great feast of miracles. In the Gospel of John it’s called ‘The Feast of the Dedication’.
Tonight, after sundown, all faithful Jews will begin the eight day feast with prayer and candle-lighting. Tonight, and only tonight they will recite this prayer:
Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, she’heheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi’anu la’z’man ha’ze.
Translation: “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”
The story of Hanukkah (From http://www.facenfacts.com/)
The festival reminds Jews of a time over 2500 years ago when Antiochus, a Syrian king, tried to make the Jewish people worship Greek gods. A statue of Antiochus was erected in the Jewish temple and the Jews were ordered to bow down before him. The Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues or idols and so they refused.
A small group of Jews called Maccabees rebelled, and after a three year war they recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians. But the temple was all but destroyed.
The Jews had to clean and repair the Temple, and when they were finished they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp (Menorah) – which was a symbol of God’s presence. Only one small jar of oil was found, enough for one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days.
How is Hanukkah celebrated today?
Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Hanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum) each day.
The Hanukkah Menorah symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people at this difficult time.
Games are often played at Hanukkah. The most common game uses a dreidel and is a popular way of helping children to remember the great miracle.