We're hanging lights and dancing around the kitchen in December again. But this year there is a different feeling in our home. There is a deep, indescribable peace. A peace I've never felt before. There are no gifts to purchase. Nothing to wrap. No stress. No bustle.
This year, we are embracing Hanukkah for the first time. Our Menorah shines pretty earth tones on antiqued brass - and beeswax candles all in a row. And there is something breath-taking about the very Menorah God commanded in the Old Testament shining in the darkness of an old country kitchen.
This year has been a whirlwind of awakenings and blessings and the opening of our eyes to things bright and new. It's also been a difficult time of trying desperately to express our hearts and convictions with those that struggle to grasp on to this new direction. And we understand - changing traditions that have deep heart connections is not a simple or easy thing for many. The only reason we can let go is because of God's deep grace and love for us.
This year, our home is not decorated for Christmas. Nope, no tree, no garland, no gifts. No advent readings, no focus on the story of Christ's birth (we celebrated His birth during Sukkot!).
But the crazy thing is, for big celebrators of Christmas in the past (and all our lives) - we don't feel a loss. Not in the slightest, because I believe where there might have been a void, Christ is faithful to fill to flowing over. And the filling is happening right as I type. Yes, in our obedience to Him, He comes and touches us with His passionate loving embrace. Oh, no, we're not missing anything.
Rather, quietly, simply, we prepare to rededicate our souls to the King of all Light.
The Feast of Dedication.
The Festival of Lights.
These are all one in the same. The Hebrew holy time that appears in the gospel of John. It was during the Feast of Dedication that Christ spoke of being the Light of the world and gave sight to the blind. The Jewish people celebrate the rededication of the temple of Yahweh. And as followers of Christ we also give thanks for all He has done and all He will do for His people, Jew and Gentile alike. And we focus on our rededicating of our very own temples - ourselves. Yes, these earthly, fallen vessels that Jesus Messiah so graciously calls His own.
Hanukkah is a Hebrew word - it derives from the verb meaning 'to dedicate'.
Although Hanukkah is not one of God's appointed Feasts, it holds deep significance for believers. The themes of the feast are those of God's miracles, our dedication to our Saviour and the Kingdom life, as well as Yeshua (Jesus) is the Light of the world. It is also incredibly prophetic of things to come!
This year we let go of Easter and humble and wide-eyed we celebrated our first Passover. And through the learning and the gripping on to Jesus we were brought to tears and our hearts where overwhelmed by God's grace and love. And then a few months ago we stood awe-struck during our week-long celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Over and over again these biblical feasts and celebrations bring us to our knees and God shows us more of Himself. The depth and beauty of truly opening our hearts to these biblically rooted holidays is beyond overwhelming. All I can do is humbly give thanks that God whispers and reveals and somehow He has chosen our crazy family and adopted us as His own. And now, we see the truth of His feasts and we shakily grip on to what we know He is calling us to embrace.
So, if you hear a follower of Christ say they celebrate the biblical feasts and it sounds very strange and new to you - I understand. If they even sound a bit crazy, I get it. I felt the exact same way. Then, I got on my face and sought God for truth. And I was astounded at what I found. My husband and I sit still amazed at all this truth and wonder that we hadn't seen before. Is it a little foreign? Yes. Is it off the beaten path? Oh, yes. Is it wonderful? Yes. Powerful? Yes. Anointed? Yes. God-breathed? Yes! Life changing? Absolutely.
And the more we embrace this different way of life, the more people are drawn to ask us why. And we are discovering over and over how powerful God's feasts are. The gospel is written all over them and it reveals truth to even the hardest of hearts.
And as we watched the challah rise tonight, once again, I felt the warmth of celebrating God's holy days stirring again in my heart. And nothing can compare to that feeling, friends. As we lit that first candle and read God's word together as a family, the kitchen couldn't have been more cozy and beautiful and twinkling bright with the light of the candles and the Light of the world all around us.
His spirit, so alive, so present as we embrace what the Word calls us to embrace - obedience to Him.
I don't by any means have this Hanukkah thing completely figured out - or anything, for that matter. But, I promised I would share my thoughts and plans (Lord willing) for celebrating, so, I want desperately to stay true to my word. Below I've included a print up of our ideas for embracing a simple yet deeply meaningful Messianic Hanukkah season.
Hanukkah isn't about gifts. Hanukkah is about spending time with family and meditating on God's truth. In this time, as followers of Christ, we are rededicating our 'temples' to Him. Our temples are our very bodies, hearts, minds, souls. As a family, we will be lighting the Menorah every night for the 8 nights. We chose to purchase a biblical Menorah (with seven branches not the traditional 9 on the Jewish Hanukkah Menorah). So, we are improvising with the lighting of the candles but it is just as magical for the children (and for us!).
After the lighting, we read scripture together, which is themed by day. I made 8 small envelops and hung them on a clothes line in the kitchen with Day 1-8 printed on them. Inside each envelop is 2 little papers decorations, one that says the theme of the day and one that has the scriptures printed. Once we read, the children take turns placing them on some branches we have in a mason jar on the kitchen table.
We decorated our home with mostly lights (this is the Festival of Lights, after all!), stars, a banner that reads, "Jesus is the Light!", and of course, the Menorah. There are countless ideas for decorating and celebrating on Pinterest, and various blogs. We kept it simple and used all reused crafting items and decorations we previously had - we just revamped them!
We are also creating a Hanukkah lapbook, which, Lord willing, I will share at the end of the celebration!
Below, I'm sharing the plan I came up with (it is inspired by what I read in A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays but I changed quite a bit and used my own scriptures). I'm sharing in case you would also like to read similar verses with your family either this year, or maybe even next!
Readings for Celebrating the Feast of Dedication:
Theme - God is Light
Scripture - Rev. 21:22-23, 1 John 1:5
Theme - Lord is our Light
Scripture - Isaiah 2:5, Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 60:19
Theme - The Word is Light
Scripture - Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:130
Theme - The Messiah is the Light of the world
Scripture - John 8:12
Theme - When Christ is Your light, you are transformed
Scripture - 2 Cor. 4:6, Acts 26:18, 1 John 2:9
Theme - The Light overcomes the darkness
Scripture - Prov. 13:9, John 1:4-5, John 12:46
Theme - We are to be a Light in this world
Scripture - Matt. 5:14-16, Eph. 5:8, Phil. 2: 14-16
Theme - Let your light shine!
Scripture - Luke 11:33-36, John 12:35-36, John 13:34-35
I pray that as you read this, the Spirit stirs your heart. It is my heartfelt prayer that more and more families will seek and find the truth.
Praise God for His truth and His Light!
Love to you all this blessed season.