My Rule for Life

I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And Now From the Christian Perspective

I am indebted to my friend and fellow blogger the Most Rev. Archbishop Gregori for giving us a view of Hanukkah from the Christian side.


HAPPY HANUKKAH

As an Orthodox Catholic Bishop, I often urge my parishoners to take part in all of the Jewish Festivals. Every year at Pass Over, I hold a Seder Dinner with ALL of the traditional foods. Likewise, besides putting up the traditional Manger Scene and Christmas Tree (it is a Hanukkah Bush to my Jewish friends) I also light the Menorah on each of the eight days of Hanukkah.

Christians, all too often, tend to forget that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the Son of God, was Jewish. Being a Jew, he observed ALL of the Jewish Feasts and customs, including Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It was important to him, so much so that he took himself to the very place where the Hanukkah miracle had occurred.

To those who may not know what Hanukkah is, let be give a little background:


In the second century BC,  Antiochus Epiphanes became the new king of the Seleucid Empire. Under his tyrannical rule Judaism was prohibited as a religion and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated while the Jewish people themselves were persecuted.

Matthias, a Levite (member of the priestly chaste) along with his five sons rebelled against attempts to force pagan sacrifices on the Jewish people. Judah, one of Matthias' sons, finally managed to take control of the rebel forces and experienced stunning military success against the Seleucids; as a result, he became known as Maccabeus, which means “the Hammer.” Judah and his rebel forces prevailed and retook the Temple, which was cleansed and rededicated. One problem, however, was there was only enough olive oil to light the menorah in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days, which was just enough time to prepare a new supply of oil.


Hanukkah celebrates this ancient miracle; and over the course of eight days, Jewish families light a modified menorah, called a hanukkiah, which has eight branches instead of the usual six, to symbolize the eight days of the original miracle. The blessings the family or community says together when lighting the candles acknowledges God as the ruler of the universe, “who made miracles possible for our ancestors in those days at this same season.” Jewish observers then sing the hymn “Rock of Ages” including the words “My God, you are the rock of my rescue and it is lovely to praise you. Restore my house of prayer where I will offer thanks...” Additional traditions include the eating of foods fried in oil, like doughnuts and potato pancakes, and playing with a four sided top called a dreidel.

As a kid, I was always jealous of the Jewish kids in my neighborhood because as a Christian, all I got were presents on Christmas morning, that was it, but them lucky Jewish kids got presents for eight nights in a row! As Christian children we were taught that Christmas is more than gift-giving so, too, Jewish parents teach that Hanukkah gifts are a reminder of the origins of the season’s joy, and not the reason for it.

In Israel, part of the Hanukkah celebrations involve visits to the “Land of the Maccabees” in the foothills of Judah around the modern city of Modi’in, near the ancestral home of Judah’s family. Today, It is common to find Christians, be they Messianic Jew or Gentile Christian, celebrating Hanukkah. For Gentile Christians, it serves as a reminder that our God is a god of miracles, past, present, and future. It is also a reminder of Jesus’ words recorded in John 8: 12: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

So, those who haven't yet done so, get out and shamelessly and in a joyful way, celebrate our Savior's Jewish roots, and If you are in need of a miracle, remember this: God, who performed the miracle of Hanukkah for the Jews in 164 BC and Jesus, who performed miracles in Israel 2000 years ago, is the same One who performs miracles today. So, light those candles and believe in your heart that miracles do happen.

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Most Rev. Archbishop Gregori

7 comments:

Spitfire said...

Great job Abouna! If you weren't Greek Orthodox, I'd think you were Jewish...LOL! Thank you for such a thoughtful, balanced view of Hanukkah. It was lovely. Hope you have a blessed and delightful holiday with your family. Shalom.

ABNPOPPA said...

Abouna,

Thank you so very much for this "guest posting" I sometimes think we Christians forget Jesus was a Jew and followed Jewish practices.

Spitfire, Thank you for you "guest posting" and giving more insight to the meaning of this very special Jewish tradition.

May G-d bless you both with long life and happiness.

Pops

Spitfire said...

Pops,
Thanks for asking me to guest post. YHWH has blessed me tremendously...He sent me friends like you and Abouna! What a joy you are to me. May your holidays be blessed Sweetie. Praying you enjoy this time (even though I know your heart is hurting)and are able to spend time making new memories with your kids and grandkids. Shalom, Spitfire

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Pops, it was a pleasure. May G-d richly bless you and yours this Holiday Season.

And you also Spitfire Shalom to both of you and your families.

Elizabeth said...

If only everyone had the Christmas spirit:
http://www.btselem.org/English/Testimonies/20091111_Israel_prevents_Gaza_Resident_Issa_Mesak_from_marring_his_Bethlehem_bride.asp

ABNPOPPA said...

My heart goes out to those who were raised as Christians can't not for one day put aside their prejudices and allow many to honor a most Holy Day.

Merry Christmas to ALL, from my heart to yours.

Shalom and G-d Bless,
Pops

Harry said...

Yes Elizabeth, if only . . .
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704304504574610022765965390.html

Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.

Read more about this famous Lutheran Pastor at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer