Friday, December 10, 2010

Eighth Night: Celebrate!

Each year our family celebrates Scripture, history, prophesy, Light and promises for eight special nights in December.

Here are some of the the verses we study during that time: 

God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness
Genesis 1:3-4  (Side note: the sun and moon were created three days later...what light shone for 36 hours until the sun was made?   Even thought about that?)

King David said:  "For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness."
Psalms 18:28

St. John said "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
John 1: 4-5

Aged Simeon, promised of the Lord that he would not die until he saw Israel's Messiah.  Upon seeing the infant Jesus brought to the Temple, he declared "My eye have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
Luke 2: 30-32

Jesus went into the Temple in winter at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) and there before the kindled lights proclaimed "I am the Light of the world, he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life."
John 1: 4-5

Prophetically, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the future, and the role of the restored Israel:
"Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you...And nations will come to your Light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."
Isaiah 60: 1-3

Then there is the final description of the new Heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling place of those who have been covered with the shed blood of the Messiah, and who embraced His Light:
"And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the Glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light..."
Revelation 21: 22-27

It is these scriptures and more that have led our Christian family to embrace the celebration of Hanukkah.

(For some reason, Orange Cats seem especially attentive to Hanukkah candles.)

(Tiggie never missed a single night of Hanukkah, and would sit and stare at the lights, and sometimes just close his eyes and purr. One year he and Bernie even did a praise song and dance together. You can re-visit it HERE.)

We've celebrated Hanukkah for years now; Bernie bought a Hanukkah candle stick holder in Israel when he visited there before we got married. 
Originally I just figured as long we had the thing, we might as well use it.
I would make latkas (potato pancakes, basically) and we would spin dreidles and give the kids very small gifts each night.
I welcomed the time back then because in the midst of the Christmas hustle, I could count on quiet family time each evening while the candles were glowing.
Quite a soothing thing, just enjoying candle burning and simple family fun.  Decorating was easy; just the Hanukkah candle holder, some candles, a couple of dreidles and gold covered chocolate coins. 
Lots of years I wondered why I found the minimum decorations and candle time more satisfying than Christmas.
It wasn't until around 2002 that I started to really look into the what the Feast of Dedication was all about.
Jesus made a point of celebrating must be important, right?
I discovered that in eight nights, we would be celebrating the entire scope of God's plan for mankind.
The Christmas celebration of the birth of Our Savior was part of those eight days...right in the middle of it in fact.  Celebrating and reflecting on the entire "beginning to end" Scripture promises and studying the concept of Light mentioned throughout Scripture totally enthralls me.  The more we study, the more we learn, each and every year, and each year I find more aspects of God to rejoice in.
(This was the first Hanukkah our DIL had ever celebrated.  Our son Jeff was eager to come; he loves my latkas, and is the meanest dreidle player you would ever want to see.)

This year for the last night, Bernie made a brisket in the slow cooker while I was at work, and took over latka frying duties as well.  I slipped up and didn't put as much onion and salt into my latka recipe as usual. Bernie likes to cook latkas to rather burnt on the outside and rather raw-ish in the middle.
The kids plowed through several pancakes anyway.
They are hugely into fitness and eating right; that they would shovel down four and five fried latkas proved that despite Bernie's cooking variance, the latkas were enjoyed with gusto.

After we had eaten (more than) our fill, we lit the candles. 
First the middle candle is lit with a match; it is called The Servant Candle in Hebrew. 
Hmmm....isn't that interesting?
The Servant then lights the other candles.
That's why there are nine candles in the holder for an eight day celebration.
First day, the Servant and one other candle is lit.
Second day, Servant and two other candles, etc.
Thirty six candle in all are lit over the eight nights.
Hmmm...what was that again about 36 hours of a special mysterious Light that shone before the creation of the sun?
And wasn't there something in the Bible about the Eighth Day...the final chapter of creation, when there will be a New Heaven for us believers?
And did you know that the word Hanukkah is an acronym from the Hebrew sentence "Who is like you Oh Lord from amongst the gods?"

The cats and the kids listened to the scripture lesson for the Eighth Night.

I explained the significance of olives and olive oil throughout scripture.
Most people know that the Jewish Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the one day's worth of Kosher oil found in the temple lasted eight days, the time it took to create more Kosher olive oil.
There is more symbolism about olives and olive oil than that. 
There's some heavy symbolism as to why Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives!
(If you are interested in learning more about that, click HERE for a link!)
Of course, like most young creatures, Tate was more interested in scoping out the Hanukkah presents.

(Eventually Tate settled in with our Christmas frog.
The Christmas frog: That is another whole story without a shred of religious symbolism, except that it makes us laugh.)

Tradition dictates that the candles be lit and placed in a window so the whole world can see the light.
Hmmm....another concept that is central to our Christian teaching.
No bushel baskets to be found here tonight!

I had made latkas for just us two last week on night number 4, Friday night.
I think mine cooking was better...he thinks his was.
One of the things I like about Hanukkah is that it lasts eight nights. 
No trying to crowd the holiday into one 24 hour period, and each night is an opportunity to invite people to come over for candles.
Almost everyone can work in an hour or two to come by given eight nights to work it in.
IF there are issues with weather, work, travel, sick kids...not a problem. The next night or the one after that will be just fine too!
Talk about a stress buster!

The dreidle, for those who don't know, is played because the Jews required ten men to be rounded up for prayers, to form a minion. 
(Frankly, I think that would SO strengthen the Church if our men had to connect with each other for prayers in that way, but I digress.)
The Romans forbade the Jews from praying. 
The Romans had no problem with folks gambling.
The Jews would carry small spinning tops with them.  If during their prayers they saw an approaching law enforcement person, they would whip out their dreidles and begin to play.
Can't you hear them now: "Just betting on Gimel, officer.  Look, I'm up three shekels already!"
Jeff and Rachel played dreidle at an intensity level that I had never seen before.
There was shouting, blowing on the dreidle, and some heated discussion about the rules.  What a hoot!
All for a few chocolate coins which this year were made in the image of world currency.
US, Israel, UK and Canadian coins were in the lot.
Go figure why that was.
When it is just Bernie and me playing dreidle, we often involve our cats in the game.
Tigs and Hart used to be really impressive dreidle players too.
They could swack those tops clear across the room!
We let the new cats check out the dreidles, but will wait until next year to really let them play.
It will give them something to look forward to.
I'm already looking forward to next year.
And really looking forward to the ultimate Eighth Day with God in Heaven.

(If you would like to consider celebrating Hanukkah next year, you might wish to use the Candle Lighting Scripture readings that we use which can be printed out from HERE.)


ellen b. said...

I'm thinking this is a wonderful tradition to add to Christmas. I remember going to school with a lot of Jews and envying their Chanukah celebration and the fact they got a gift every night...Love all the scripture and the symbolism. Wonderful post Jill. Loved all the photos. I was at Target yesterday and got two silvertone star of David dishes for $1.50 each reg. 6.99. I was happy to get a great deal and remembered a quote from my SIL's Jewish step grandfather. When she spent too much on a gold necklace he said "Just like a Gentile you pay double for everything!"

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Most interesting...especially to someone who really has no idea what Hanukkah is all about! It all sounds most scriptural...and a wonderful way to focus in this season.

A Lady said...

Cessa wants a dreidel.

Sara said...

A wonderful and informative post, Jill. I like your latkes better...nothing raw in the middle for me!

Vicki said...

As always, I appreciate your research and your explanation! Next year, you'll need to remind me to get started...I think your family's observances of Hanukkah complement and round-out the Christmas season. This should be a custom in every Christian home, not just in the Jewish ones. After all, it's all about sharing and spreading The Light! :)

Interesting: my mother grew up in a remote hollow in Kentucky and never had contact with Judaism or anyone of the Jewish faith until well into her adulthood, yet I can remember her preparing potato pancakes and throwing gold coins on the table...hmmm.

Jocelin Boutet said...

Shalom Jill,

Really enjoyed you sharing! I'm a Messianic believer and one thing that I find fascinating is how YHVH is restoring His people to the depths of His truth in these end days. Was glad to see you linking to :)

La Tea Dah said...

A wonderfully delightful post! I enjoyed it so much!!!!!

In reference to your comment on my blog this evening --- I cannot think of a better song to walk back down the aisle to after being pronounced husband and wife!

Blessings to you!