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What is Hanukkah? A Guide for Christian Parents and Bible Teachers

Written by Dianna Wiebe on .

Have you ever asked, What is Hanukkah and how is it celebrated? As believers in Jesus, is this a holiday for us? How can we teach our students about Hanukkah?

As Christian parents and Bible teachers, our journey in exploring the richness of various traditions can deepen our understanding of faith and foster a sense of unity with the body of Christ. One such celebration that holds significance for both Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians alike is Hanukkah. In this post, we’ll embark on a journey to unravel the beauty and meaning behind Hanukkah, shedding light on its historical roots and how it can enrich our understanding of God’s sovereignty.

Understanding the Basics of Hanukkah

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that typically falls in December. The story behind Hanukkah is rooted in the historical events that transpired during the Maccabean Revolt in the second century BCE. Antiochus IV, a Greek ruler, had desecrated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, leading to a courageous uprising by a group of Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees.

The Miracle of the Oil

One of the central aspects of the Hanukkah story involves the miraculous provision of oil for the Temple Menorah or Lampstand. After the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple, they found only enough ritually pure oil to light the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, giving the priests time to purify more oil. The oil lasting eight days symbolizes God’s provision and faithfulness. This miracle is commemorated by the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum.

Feast of Lights

Each Night of Hanukkah

The Hanukkah Menorah, known as a hanukkiya, has nine branches. One candle is in the center and known as the Servant Candle because it lights the rest of the candles. Each night, one candle is lit, for all eight nights of Hanukah. The story is retold each year, bible verses are read, prayers and prayed, and songs round out the celebration.

Connections to Jesus

While Hanukkah is primarily a Jewish celebration, there are connections to be found in the Christian faith. Jesus himself celebrated the Festival of Lights, as mentioned in the Gospel of John (10:22). The occasion serves as a reminder of dedication, perseverance, and the triumph of light over darkness—themes that resonate with all believers.

Teaching Hanukkah to Children

For Christian parents and Bible teachers, incorporating the story of Hanukkah into teachings can offer valuable lessons of courage, faith, and God’s enduring presence. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Storytelling: Share the narrative of Hanukkah in a simple and engaging manner, highlighting the bravery of the Maccabees and the significance of the oil miracle.
  2. Map: Map the locations from the book of Maccabees, helping your students discover where these events took place.
  3. Crafts and Activities: Create fun, age-appropriate crafts related to Hanukkah, such as making a mini menorah or crafting oil lamps. These hands-on activities can reinforce the key elements of the celebration.
  4. Discussion: For older students discuss assimilation. How did the Jews of this time respond to the attempts to Hellenize them? What happened to those who refused to assimilate? What does God’s Word say about obedience, both the cost and benefits.
  5. Lighting the Candles: Consider incorporating a lesson on Hanukah and include a candle lighting and songs.
  6. Play the Dreidel Game: Help your students learn a little Hebrew in the form of a game. This is a fun game to round out your Hanukkah lesson.

Teaching about Hanukkah can help our children resist the temptation to assimilate to the culture when they are tempted to do so. The Maccabees serve as good role models in a day when godly role models are needed.

Be Light

As we explore the beauty of Hanukkah, let us embrace the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our spiritual heritage. In doing so, we can foster a sense of faith, gratitude, and appreciation for the many ways in which God’s light continues to shine in our lives.

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