Singing from Advent to Epiphany

Hanukkah Songs


1 Maccabees, Oh, Hanukkah
John 9:1-7, 39-41; John 10:19-24, Ma'oz Tsur


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1 Maccabees, Oh, Hanukkah (12/14/2009)

To hear the song sung by one of the cutest boy choirs you ever saw, go to Oh-Chanukah-Oh-Chanukah

If you've never done so, you ought to read 1 Maccabees, which is interesting and exciting. In lieu of that, however, if your Bible doesn't include the Apocrypha, go to Hanukkah for a summary description of the holiday.

Happy Hanukkah to all! Hanukkah started at sundown last Friday, and it lasts for 8 days. Today we will have a whirlwind tour of origin of this relatively minor Jewish holiday, and tomorrow we'll see that Jesus celebrated the Festival of Lights in his own unique way.

Did you ever wonder what happened between the time of the Old Testament and the New Testament? This 400-year period was chock-full of history. Recall that the Jews returned to Judea from the Exile in Babylon about 538, under Cyrus the Persian. They rebuilt the Temple (537+) and the walls of Jerusalem (480+), but Judea remained a vassal state, getting transferred back and forth between various foreign but Middle-Eastern occupational forces who were at war with each other. Then from 336 to 323, Alexander the Great, a Greek, took over everything as far as the eye could see. At his death, his empire was divided among his generals; the two that concern us were Ptolemy, who got Egypt and Judea, and Seleucus, who got Syria. In 198, the Seleucid king defeated the Ptolemaic king and took, among other things, Judea.

Now, from the time of Alexander on, there was an effort to Hellenize everybody everywhere, i.e., make them into Greeks, but for the most part, the Jews resisted. When the fourth Seleucid, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, came along, he started Hellenizing the Jews with a vengeance. Partly because all Greeks tended to be Hellenizers, and partly because he suspected the Jews of supporting his enemies the Ptolemies, and partly because he was crazy man, Antiochus IV's method of Hellenizing was to sacrifice unclean animals to a pagan god erected in the Temple; to force Jews to sacrifice to pagan gods; and to kill any Jewish man, woman, or child who continued to practice Judaism.

One Godly old priest, Mattathias, had five vigorous grown sons, among whom was Judas Maccabaeus, "The Hammer." When the Seleucid army showed up in Modin to enforce the unholy sacrifices, Mattathias said, "Not in my town, you don't!" and the revolt was on in 168. The Jews, led by Judas, retook Jerusalem in 165. They needed to rededicate the Temple, which had been profaned by the idols and unclean sacrifices; "Hanukkah" means "dedication." To do so, they needed to burn purified oil, but they only had enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for 8 days, the time needed to restock pure oil. The Jews remained independent until the arrival of the Romans in 63.

The main traditions associated with this holiday are So! Hanukkah celebrates freedom from oppression, the rededication of the Temple, and the miracle of the burning of the oil for 8 days. Hence 8 primary candles, plus one for lighting, on the Menorah for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. John 9:1-7, 39-41; John 10:19-24, Ma'oz Tsur (12/15/2009)

To hear the song, go to Ma'oz Tsur

We all know that Jewish Passover and Christian Easter come at about the same time every year (the difference is due solely to calendar complications), and that Jewish Pentecost and Christian Pentecost follow 50 days later. This is not a coincidence, because the early Christians were all Jews. The Last Supper was Jesus' last Passover supper with his disciples; the Holy Spirit came upon the Church during their gathering for Pentecost.

It is a coincidence that Hanukkah and Christmas come at about the same time. Hanukkah is celebrated during the same week that the Temple was rededicated and the miracle of the oil happened. Christmas is celebrated on a date chosen to confuse as many pagans as possible. However, the Church could have decided to celebrate Hanukkah, because Jesus himself did. Of course, he put his own stamp on the Festival of Lights: he gave sight to a man blind from birth, and explained, "I am the light of the world."
More Songs for Advent through Epiphany
Advent Psalms
Christmas Carols - Part 1
Christmas Carols - Part 2
Christmas Carols - Part 3
Epiphany Hymns

Copyright 2009, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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