Celebrating a Festival Jesus Celebrated this Christmas Season
Never in my wildest dreams did I think our family would celebrate Hanukkah! Would you? I grew up enjoying everything Christmas and never gave Hanukkah a second thought. It was a Jewish holiday and so it didn’t fit, or so I thought!
I’m actually really ashamed to admit that all I ever knew about Hanukkah was that it had to do with lighting candles, a weird top called a dreidel, and it was filled “eight crazy nights” according to Adam Sandler. Yes, sad that most of my knowledge came from this song!
But what I found is that Hanukkah is really all about celebrating God’s miraculous ways and sharing it with each generation.
Then I learned that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.
It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.
John 10:22 (New Living Translation)
What!?! Did you know that? I swear I’ve read that passage a million times and never realized Jesus was ever involved in Hanukkah, not until I learned another name for it was the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Dedication. It’s also known as the Festival of Lights, Chanukah, and Chanukiah. It’s amazing once I started to learn about Jewish history and customs how the New Testament came alive even more, but that’s another post.
Once I learned these facts, my family and I couldn’t wait to celebrate Hanukkah. We love celebrating our Lord and Savior and couldn’t believe that Jesus celebrated it too!
When we started celebrating Hanukkah, our children were 6, 5, 3, and just over 1. I did not know what to expect from them but wanted them to be involved so we found a short book called The Story of Hanukkahto read about the history of what led up to the re-dedication of the temple and why it is celebrated.
If you don’t have time to get this book, here are some great videos to show that give a good explanation.
In a nutshell, the Israelites were under Greek rule. Under Antiochus III, they were allowed to worship God as they always had and lived in peace, but once he died and his son Antiochus IV took over, things changed for the worse. The Israelites were forbidden to worship their God upon penalty of death. The holy books were destroyed and the Israelites were commanded to worship the Greek gods that had been placed in the confiscated temple! Can you imagine!?!
An old priest named Mattathias led the people in a revolt, which turned into a war. Even when he died, his sons–especially one in particular named Judah–carried on the fight for religious freedom and miraculously thwarted the great Greek army. Judah was nicknamed Maccabee, meaning hammer, and all those who fought with him were referred to as the Maccabees.
But that wasn’t the only miracle. Once the Israelites won the battle against the Greeks, they returned and started to restore the temple. They rededicated the temple to God and lit the Menorah. As commanded by Moses, once lit it was never supposed to be allowed to go out. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it turned out they only had enough olive oil for one night and the process to make more would take at least eight days. Even though they only had enough oil for one night, God kept the Menorah lit those entire eight days and nights! So every year since then, Jews have celebrated this miracle.
The symbolism to Christ in Hanukkah
The Shamash Candle means The Servant Candle.
The Servant Candle is the one that lights all the other candles. This is the perfect parallel to Christ. He is the light of the world and calls us to shine his light too! We get our light from him!
When and How We Celebrate Hanukkah!
The Hanukkah celebration starts every year on the 25th of Kislev, which is a different time every year on our calendar. In 2018, it begins on the evening of December 2nd and will end on the evening of December 10th. Isn’t that exciting! We can literally kickoff this Holiday season by celebrating a festival that Jesus, himself, celebrated! I’m ecstatic!
This is how we added Hanukkah to our Christmas routine very simply. (Hint: It’s not overwhelming but one of the most peaceful things we have every done.)
After dancing and laughing to this song a few times, we would turn off the lights and light the servant candle. Then depending on the day we would light the corresponding number of candles, letting the kids take turns lighting the candles. (The first day, we lit one candle. The second day, we lit two, and so on.) As we lit the candles we recited the blessing then talked about how Jesus is the light of the world and we are called to be his lights too.
After lighting the candles, the first couple of nights we read through the book mentioned above, then prayed and sang some songs.
The following nights we asked the kids why we were celebrating Hanukkah and reviewed the story, then we would talk about some of our favorite miracles from the Bible and even the miracles our Lord has done in our own lives. We usually spent about an hour together focusing this way on God’s goodness, singing, and worshiping together.
It was one of the most peaceful, relaxing, joyful times we have had during the Christmas season! This year, when I pulled out the menorah, our children asked if they could light the candles immediately! I was thrilled!
Over the years we added a few more fun things, but didn’t want to miss the focus.
(This post contains affiliate links.)
For dinner together, we have tried some of the fried foods, which are the typical celebratory foods. They eat a lot of foods fried in olive oil to commemorate how long the olive oil lasted.
Here are a few recipes:
Latkes (fried hash brown pancakes) And just in case you need some inspiration in song form check out this video!
During our play time, we also play spin the dreidel.
We could add a lot of extras in there. Pinterest is full of ideas, but truly, I loved how we focused on God’s miraculous ways. We didn’t get overwhelmed by adding one more thing to our already packed schedule. Like I mentioned before, it was actually the perfect resting time…by celebrating Hanukkah we were resting and basking in God’s goodness. What could be better than that during a season where we are wanting to focus all our attention on the miracle of Christ?
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved exploring. Encouraging our kids to explore is one main reason that I encourage them off the beaten path too!
Sometimes, these adventures bring up reactions that I don’t expect at all, which is exactly what happened on our last adventure.
A Time to Go Off the Beaten Path
We have been exploring a new area of Texas lately. Our adventures take us to new sites and sounds and many new parks. One of the parks we have enjoyed is the World Adventure Park. Not only does is the playground itself unique and have a built in scavenger hunt as well as enough swings for all our kids, but it also has a nature walk adventure.
After playing on the playground for about an hour, we started our nature walk adventure. At first, we followed the path. That was easy enough to do since the initial walkway had rails on both sides.
Soon enough that pre-built pathway ended and every time we came to a fork in the road, a different child had the opportunity to choose which path we would take.
It was at this point where I saw there were two distinct camps among our children:
One group wanted to take the scariest path every time.
One group wanted to take the safest path every time.
It was a fun time overall UNTIL we apparently took too many paths that led out of the park.
The Path that Led to Fear
After several off the beaten path choices, we ended up following a trickling stream. The canopy of trees grew a little denser but the path was clear. The footprints were clearing ours, a few dogs, and then one large animal print that was the size of my head. I chose not to point that one out to the kids because at this point one was starting to panic.
We were too far off the beaten path for him. He just wanted to go back home and did not want to continue.
A large hawk flew overhead. The trees rustled. His little hand stayed tucked in mine.
I encouraged him as best I could that we would find the main path again soon and he did not have to worry.
When big tears started to encroach the rims of his eyes, I realized his fears were overcoming him and we needed to stop and pray.
In my short exploring life, I have had some instances where panic started to set in and the only thing that keeps it at bay is inviting God in to overtake the situation.
So that is what we did. We stopped, circled up, and prayed. We prayed for calm hearts, the opportunity to see God’s beauty in what was around us, and to find the main path soon.
I have a forge on mentality. If something goes wrong, just keep going. In this case, I assumed that turning off the path that followed the stream and turning onto another path that seemed to go northward would get us back to the main park.
Well, we did eventually find an open clearing but it led to a baseball field, which according to my calculations was a little ways away from the park area where we parked.
So we turned around, retraced our steps, enjoyed a daytime owl serenading us until we found the main path again.
Needless to say, my son’s heart was comforted in standing on the main path again.
The Spiritual Connection
“Going off the beaten path” spiritually isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. Sometimes as a church body we get caught up in things that really don’t matter eternally or we allow a few to steer our spiritual connection with God instead of connecting to Him personally. In these instances, it is most definitely needed to go off the beaten path and encounter God ourselves and to listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading.
William Booth’s Example
It reminds me of the story of the William Booth, the man who started the Salvation Army. William Booth’s church leaders decided that the best course of action for his life was to preach to the church body and rejected his idea of going to the slums in the East End of London.
Instead of sticking with his leaders’ pre-approved notion of what God wanted for his life, he turned to the guidance of the the Holy Spirit and taught in the streets to the poor, homeless, and destitute. He left what was comfortable and choose to venture off the beaten path to a place where no one else from the christian community wanted to go. It was a path that looked scary and dark to most, but he wanted to bring light to the path.
His converts to Christ were prostitutes, thieves, drunkards, and those who would never step foot in a traditional church setting. Reaching out to those in this environment was not easy, it required much prayer and trust in the Lord.
We might not have understood the history behind the Salvation Army, but that one man’s choice has impacted thousands of lives. Many of us probably think of the Salvation Army simply as bell ringers during the Christmas holiday. We may either throw in a few coins or try to avoid them, but I want to challenge you now. Every time you hear that bell ring this holiday season, pray and ask God if he is calling you off the beaten path.
Is God asking you to step away from the comforts of the Christianity that you know?
Is he calling you off the beaten path to reach out to those who would never enter the comfortable christian setting that we know?
Are you willing to go off the beaten path and follow Christ wherever He may lead?
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Oh, Lord, help us not get so comfortable that we shirk your calling to reach out to those who don’t know you yet. Give us your courage and strength to step off the beaten path and trust you no matter where you lead.
In the One who left the comforts of Heaven, took the pain of our sin upon him, so that we could have a path back to Heaven – Amen!
The importance of a name. The Name we proclaim will determines the direction of our lives. Zechariah was given a chance to show his faith or lack of it, by simply proclaiming a name. We are given this same option.
Jesus say’s in Luke 16:10:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
The power of believing God even in the smallest of details means that we are showing others our utter and complete belief. In this case, the “small” detail boiled down to a name. The name of a child who would then proclaim the name of the Lord Almighty! The is the name under which every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now, the most important name you will ever say is Jesus Christ is Lord. You will either proclaim it with joy in His heavenly presence because you proclaimed it here on Earth or you will proclaim it out of fear, knowing that you did not carry his name as the biggest and smallest detail in your life. May we never have to dread this day. May we willing wear his name and share proudly with others that we are followers of Christ and they should be too!
As Zechariah wrote out his son’s on his tablet, in the silent but loudest voice he had, he proclaimed his faith in the Lord, the Name above all names!
When we read this, Lord, we want to jump up and down for your mercy and what you did for Elizabeth too!
Oh , the mercy you had on Elizabeth! In her old age, after her decades of wanting a child and never being able to conceive, you miraculously opened her womb and gave her a son.
And not just any son, but one that would announce the coming Messiah!
What mercy and love you poured out over her!!
What a blessing to be able to celebrate this gift with her friends and relatives!
Let us be a people that rejoice along with our brothers and sisters who are receiving the gift of your mercy right now too!
Maybe it’s rejoicing in a marriage that is stronger in you now after the devil tried to rip it to shreds.
Maybe it’s rejoicing in someone coming to know your forgiveness and the gift of grace.
Maybe it’s one coming seeking forgiveness and receiving your mercy as she has confessed.
Maybe it’s rejoicing alongside someone whose decades long prayer has been answered.
Let us be a people who are faithful, loving, and rejoice along with those who are rejoicing in all you have done for them!
In the One who is faithful to all he created – Amen!
Luke 1: 59 – 61
Lord, when you call us to stand strong and courageous, we often think of doing this against those who are opposed to you.
We don’t often think about standing strong and courageous when dealing with those who love you too.
But this is exactly what you called Elizabeth to do at the very moment when the miracle baby you had given her was about to be named.
She stood up and with the voice you gave her proclaimed the name that you had determined this precious baby to be called.
They would not name him after his father even though that was the tradition.
It didn’t matter that they did not understand the why behind it.
She was standing tall and courageous up to the family that loved her but didn’t fully understand the prophesy and miracle that you had given to her husband.
Lord, we pray that we will be as bold, firm, and lovely with the ones that love us. May we not be swayed by their well-intentioned actions but hold on to the truth you have called us to live.
In the One who calls us to stand for truth no matter what anyone else thinks – Amen!
Lord, prepare our hearts to be challenged and questioned by others who don’t understand what you have called us to do.
Help us to stand strong.
We praise you for Elizabeth and Zechariah’s faith in what you told them to call their son.
They could have just flippantly dismissed what you said to do because it didn’t fit their traditions. You don’t call us to be a people of tradition but a people of faith.
Obedience brings about blessings sometimes immediately and sometimes eternally. We praise you for giving him his speech back again so that he could go on to tell his son about your amazing ways.
Let us not hold our tongues when they work so well. Let them sing your praises and glorify you through our faith!
In the One who gives us a reason to sing your praises – Amen!
Luke 1:65 – 66
When we humble ourselves to you and obey what you are calling us to do, Lord, you not only keep us in awe but you also keep those around us in awe too!
How awesome it was for everyone in the hill country of Judea to be wondering what plans God had in store for John!
He would be the one pointing the way to the Messiah!
They had know clue how important his role would be, but they understood that God was doing something big.
Lord, we know you are doing amazing things right now in our lives too. And just like John, you want us to point all those around us to the One, the only One, who can change their lives for the better.
May we not shrink back from the responsibility you have given us or pass it off to someone else. May we pray over those whom you have placed in our lives and share the good news with them too!
In the One who put us in this time and place for a reason – Amen!
Being ghosted. It’s not a term I was familiar with but the moment I read about what it was, I realized that’s exactly what had happened to me. I didn’t have a name for it, but I carried a lot of pain from it. Being ghosted has haunted me.
Sadly, I realized it’s hurting a lot of people even within the church body.
What Does It Mean to Be Ghosted?
Ghosting someone happens when one person in a relationship (be it platonic or romantic) decides to end all forms of communication with the other person.
In my case, a person I considered a very dear friend vanished. Like, literally vanished. One minute we had planned a play date for the following week, the next minute there was nothing. We literally went from communicating all the time to absolutely no response to any type of reaching out.
Yes, we did have an issue arise, but what relationship doesn’t?
It was never something I thought couldn’t have been talked through and worked out. But that was the issue, it’s impossible to discuss anything when all lines of communication are suddenly dead.
What broke my heart the most was that this was someone I trusted. This was a fellow sister in Christ.
I believed her to be a true friend and then “poof” it was like our friendship had never existed. And of course my heart hurt for my children as well, because all of a sudden their close friends had vanished too. They begged to see their friends again. But how does a mother explain that she has no clue when they will get to see their friends because the person she thought was her friend won’t return a text, a call, a message, or anything?
Years removed from when it happened, it’s hard to believe that it actually did. It’s difficult to conceive that a friendship so close could vanish into thin air. At the time it hurt like the dickens. I remember breaking down in the middle of a Bible study one night not wanting to share what was going on but unable to control the tears.
Wise women gathered around me and one asked if a friendship was hurting. I couldn’t even answer initially. Then quietly with these two women, I remember sharing through sobs how I went from having a friend to stone cold silence, how it was affecting my children, and that I wanted to make things better but didn’t know how.
With empathy and love, one of the women asked,
“Would you want your children going through the same hurt you are feeling right now?”
Of course, not!
“Then maybe it’s the best thing because the children will learn from the mother how to treat others.”
Such wisdom took root but it didn’t start to grow until almost a year later. Up until that time, I was grieving the lose of a close friend, one who had not died but was haunting me with her silence, and praying that somehow we could at least talk through things. That never happened.
The Affect of Being Ghosted
The ghosting haunted me and kept me from allowing others in. Because of what happened, I unintentionally guarded my heart from forming deep relationships for a couple of years. Those who had been with me up to that point, I held onto, but others I didn’t initially let in until I realized what was happening.
Through prayer and God’s help, I’ve been able to grow deeper relationships again. God has truly blessed me with some amazing women, who have literally been with me through my highs and lows and whom I’ve been able to encourage and cheer on through their highs and lows.
That is what true friendship is! I’m not sure who to attribute this quote to, but I find it very true:
If you want to find out who’s a true friend, screw up or go through a challenging time, then see who sticks around.
At the Heart of Ghosting
It is only possible to overcome a conflict when we are willing to take down our guard, engage each other in conversation, and listen. It’s impossible to reconcile or fix a situation when we are trying our hardest to avoid it.
Avoidance is at the heart of ghosting. Some think it is easier to quickly say they “forgive” what is bothering them but if the issue is never addressed then the situation can become more frustrating and painful before the other person even realizes what all is going on.
Honestly, the hardest part of being ghosted is being haunted by what happened. Why did such a good friendship have to dissipate into thin air? Why could we not just sit and talk things through? We are both Christians and yet somehow it was “easier” to cut off all communication than choose what might have been uncomfortable and talk to each other.
I believe anything can be worked through. God did a miraculous thing when he redeemed us through Jesus Christ. If God can do that I truly believe with him any relationship can be redeemed.
Why Speak About Ghosting Now?
Several years removed from being ghosted, I can finally speak to this situation without physically hurting. I don’t believe the person who did this is a mean individual or even intended for this to happen. I just don’t think she wanted to deal with any type of conflict.
I’m speaking up about this now because it has become too common in our culture and it’s invading the church. We as followers of Christ should be setting a pattern of how to navigate conflict and difficult circumstances. We will not be perfect at it because none of us are perfect. I know I am not, but we should try.
To Ghost or Not to Ghost
There is a prevalent idea in our culture now that if someone is weighing you down, draining you, not making you happy, or happened to hurt you somehow, or your just done with them, then they are nixed from your life. (I am not speaking of abuse. That is a totally different subject.)
In any relationship there should be boundaries, but we should also expect true relationships to look messy sometimes, if we are really being open and honest with each other. There will be times that conflicts arise, but this idea of dumping people who we have a conflict with goes against what the Bible says. It goes against how Jesus handle his friends who hurt him.
How can we as a church body teach the world how to resolve conflicts, if we are unwilling to try and resolve issues that come up between our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Lord, you know more than any other how difficult it can be to deal with people sometimes. With so many different personalities and misunderstandings, the devil loves to create issues where there are none or fan the flame on an issue that could easily be extinguished. He loves to make us think the worst in each other instead of giving the benefit of the doubt. He loves to have us focus on our hurt instead of extending grace and talking to each other to hear the heart of the matter.
Lord, help us not to allow Satan to sneak in and destroy the good you are doing. Help us to individually examine our hearts and if we are hurt to reach out to the one who hurt us. If we are the one that hurt someone else, help us to see it and be willing to acknowledge our part in the problem.
None of us are perfect that is why we need you so much! Help us to extend the same grace you have given to us to others.
In the One who while being crucified asked you to “forgive them because they know not what they do.” – Amen
Each season brings it’s own cravings and fun activities. It also brings many opportunities to do some soul searching, encourage each other and reach out to others! You’ll love these ideas to use either in your own family or gift them to others. We’ve gathered a great list of activities, crafts, recipes, printables, decor and more for you to create a fall to remember!
Let’s start by feeding our soul with a little of God’s fall flavor. McKenzie’s way of digging into Scripture through Bible Journaling is inspiring and definitely brings a new perspective to God’s word.
Sharing God’s love with others is a wonderful way to kick off the fall! Go on a Scavenger Hunt with friends, family or church group. Head out to your neighborhood or one that could use some tender loving care and love on the people there by doing different mini-service projects.
The first thing you reach for in the morning is coffee, right? Well, that’s my husband. I prefer hot chocolate or a protein drink. But as soon as I saw this deliciously, healthy version of a pumpkin spice coffee creamer I thought of him.
Ever since I was a child, desserts were what I enjoyed creating in the kitchen the most. As an adult, I still enjoy them but so enjoy finding recipes like this healthier apple crisp that chooses to not use refined white sugar, but instead adds an wonderful fall flavor by using maple syrup.
These frosted maple cookies have me licking my lips. I can’t believe I’ve never had these before. Have you?
I’m not one that enjoys shopping for clothes. I do, however, enjoy shopping with friends who enjoy shopping and finding cute things for me to wear. Now that I’ve moved into a warmer climate, I found this post about dressing for fall in a warmer climate to be helpful.
Weclome guest with fall before they even enter your home with this adorable Hoop Fall Wreath.
If you prefer to just add subtle hints that fall has arrived consider adding these 3 accessories
Arts & Crafts
It would not be truly fall without crafts! Craft fairs and festivals are some of my favorite places to visit in the fall. I love seeing all the creativity and finding pieces that are draw in the season!
There is something about fall that makes me want to gather with friends around my favorite drinks. Of course, Hot Chocolate will always be my favorite but since this is a fall round up post, I’ll share some others that are tempting me as well.