Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Will Not Assimilate

Bear with me because I have much to say in my seemingly random thoughts that do converge into the overarching topic, Hanukkah.

There is something that exists in my husband and I that almost compels us to challenge the societal norm, buck the system. (Just ask my parents--I have been this way since birth.)

At first, perhaps we liked the thrill of being different.

The more we sand previously held "biblical" beliefs and traditions--through the refining of the Word (Psalm 66:10)--the more we become firm in our current but micro-evolving Biblical convictions and/or practices. . . (Don't I sound "churchy?")

. . . The more we want to live according to a different standard. You could even say that we want to live closer to perhaps the way it used to be . . . or was intended.

In her study of Esther, It's Tough Being a Woman, Beth Moore writes,
We too can become so steeped in our culture that we are almost indistinguishable from the world. We too can lose our sense of identity and forget who we are. Indeed, the fact that we can hide our Christianity assumes a certain amount of assimilation. I believe one of God's purposes in this journey is to help us recapture both our identity and identification as His children--not so that we can be obnoxious but so we can be influential.
It is a process. It is a unique calling. We, Brian and I (yes, I let the cat out of the bag) are not "special," we just have felt compelled to become God-Seeking Entrepreneurs, if you will.

There have been many events that have changed us. And I am not going to focus on those events right now. Maybe later. But God has used mountains and anvils to bring us to the literal and figurative place that we have set up tent.

And I am not saying that all societal standards or norms are wrong. . . . or that Christian traditions are wrong. BUT what I am saying is that we have definitely been called by God to live slightly different than the majority.

We stepped out of the Matrix. We took the Red Pill. Kind of.

There are many books (and movies) that have influenced us . . . our marriage . . . our family life.

The most important book. The most radical book. A rich love letter. Of course, I'm talking about The Bible. It is the primary book that has sculpted who we are as individuals, husband/wife, and parents.

Other challenging books include

With that said, let me introduce you to our menorah that is waiting for the family to gather around it for the nightly reading during an annual festival of the Jews called Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is not one of the seven feasts outlined by God in the Old Testament. Hanukkah is a tradition (much like the Christian traditions of Christmas or Easter which are not commanded or even mentioned to celebrate in the Bible). The lighting of the menorah has its roots in history when many Jews refused to follow Greek ways and practices by driving the Syrians out of the land under the leadership of Judas Maccabee.

The story can be summed up in a song by BNL titled, Hanukkah Blessing:
How lucky are we that we
have lights so we can see

Although the day is done

What a miracle that a spark
lifts these candles out of the dark

Every evening, one by one

Until the end of Hanukkah, of Hanukkah.

With the jingle bells and the toys
And the TV shows and noise
It's easy to forget

At the end of the day
Our whole family will say
These words for Hanukkah

Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu
B'mitz'votav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Light the candles for Hanukkah, for Hanukkah

We remember how Maccabees
Fought so all of us could be free

And so we celebrate on this festival of the lights
There's a joyful time every night
But we illuminate the candles of Hanukkah, of Hanukkah

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam she'asa niseem
La'avoteinu bayamim haheim baz'man hazeh.

After restoring the Temple the Jews rededicated this Holy place to God with festivities that lasted eight days. (It really makes me want to laugh at King Xerxes who threw a party for himself for 180 + 7 days! in the book of Esther, which introduces Purim. Xerxes really was full of himself.) Much to their dismay, only a small amount of oil was found in the Temple to light the holy lamps. Despite the limited amount of oil, miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new oil was available.

To commemorate this miraculous time, it was decreed that each year the Jewish nation would remember this event and light the menorah, the light being a symbol of Yahweh (aka God).

The Hanukkah menorah is comprised of nine branches. Note that the Temple menorah has seven branches (Exodus 25: 37). Here is an interesting factoid for you. The golden lamp stand probably weighed close to 75 pounds! The candle in the middle (ours is blue) is called the shamus, and is used to light the other candles.

When this holiday began, Jews were not required to return to Jerusalem as they were for the seven Old Testament feasts. Remember this is not one of God's prescribed feasts, this was a man-made tradition of sorts.

If it is man-made, then why is the Granola family celebrating Hanukkah? I had to ask myself this question this week. And I thank my bloggy friend, Michelle, for walking me through this and encouraging me to THINK.

For that matter, why do we celebrate ANY supposedly "Christian" holiday if it isn't directly mentioned in the Bible?

But for now I answer with this. There is a reference to Hanukkah in the New Testament found in John 10:22, "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter." Hanukkah has been and can be referred to as the Feast of Dedication, meaning the celebration of the dedication of the Temple. The only holiday in the winter . . . Hanukkah.

And this. God put a hunger in our hearts to live closer to Him. That is why we eat the things we eat (and don't eat). That is why we bought this great book called A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays. We were searching for a way to celebrate and commemorate God in a deeper and more meaningful way. We wanted Biblically supported traditions and rituals in our life.

When we got the book, Hanukkah was the closest event for us to celebrate. So we did. Then we celebrated Purim. Soon followed our celebrations of the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

We find that our worship of God . . . our embracing of His life-saving words and truths . . . blesses us . . . adds meaning to our lives . . . provides rocks upon which our memories rest and scripture that acts as the mortar to our daily walk.

Hanukkah prepares our hearts, our family's hearts, for the man-made tradition of Christmas, which can be argued to have pagan roots. Christmas is busy. It is a generous season. It is a season to reflect on the best present ever, Jesus. Yet, in some ways I savor our nighttime candle ritual more during this time of year. Hanukkah provides a physical and simple practice that causes us look forward and know with hope that Jesus' words are true,
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8: 12)
Our children see that Light and hear about that Light who is a person in a special and quiet way during the lighting of our menorah.

I don't want to forget who I am. I don't want to assimilate into Christmas culture. I celebrate Hanukkah.


Conny said...

I found your post interesting! I never thought of celebrating Hanukkah ... but a few years ago, I attended an Easter Seder given by my MOPS group at a local church. It too was a meaningful, Jewish tradition that focused on Jesus as the Passover Lamb. I always wanted to do this with my own family - but so far haven't pursued it. I think it's great you are giving your family a different, yet significant, thing to celebrate!

Michelle said...

Beautiful! You already know my thoughts, so I won't say more, but I think that what you are doing is pleasing in His sight. *Ü*

Prasti said...

great perspective...i have never thought of hanukkah in that way. i really like your approach. as a family we strive to find ways to draw closer to God, and i really like your approach on biblical holidays/celebrations. i'll have to check out the biblical holiday book.

Mamma James said...

Wow...much to think about. Gerrad and I were just having a conversation about feeling pressured to assimilate to the "traditions" of Christmas when we don't feel like the "reason for the season" is in the viewfinder at all. Just last night we prayed that God would show us new ways to walk our kids and ourselves through the Bible and holidays focused directly and specifically at God's Word. I am excited to share this post with him to encourage and posibly direct our thoughts! :) Thank you for sharing...and thank you for living "different", your family, are inspiring!