Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for December, 2017

A Jaded Christmas Movie Review‚Ķ Enjoy!

A Jaded Christmas Movie Review….

this post is supposed to be humor/ sarcasm. if you find yourself becoming offended…. Shake it off!

As a mother of seven, granny of four, Christmas time means re-watching the same movies I have seen over and over and over…. Some of you share my pain.

Die Hard
-a truly American Christmas story. An ex-husband risks his life to save his estranged ex-wife. A real Christmas miracle!

A Charlie Brown Christmas
-an utopian Lord of the Flies. Where are the parents? (I actually really like this one.)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (The Jim Carey version)
-the story of a dysfunctional family. It explains why we don’t invite Uncle G to Christmas. It also explains why Uncle G is ticked with the family. It is the story of why the quieter family members need to speak up before the more pushy members drive those who don’t quite fit in to wrath. The older version had a more positive message.

Frosty the Snowman
-a twisted resurrection story? Are we sure this is meant for Christmas?

Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer
-liking someone because you suddenly need them is not the same as true repentance- just saying.

The Santa Clause
-why divorce sucks for the kids. Also a great excuse for post-holiday weight gain!

It’s A Wonderful Life
-no, it isn’t. George Bailey is wonderful; everyone else takes him for granted. This is why we need to show appreciation for the good people in our lives. No one who does as much good as George Bailey should feel alone and suicidal. Stop trying to keep the obnoxious people happy and start showering the good people with love!

A Christmas Story
-it’s time to get some work done around my house when this comes on. I don’t understand this one at all. What’s up with the lamp? Get the kid some eye protection. Lot’s of angst over trivial matters…

A Christmas Carol
-at Scrooge’s age, three ghosts in one night would put him in the ER. There’s only so much an aging heart can take!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
-unfortunately more true to life than most of us would like to admit…

Home Alone
-the local authorities couldn’t come and get the kid to a safe place before mom could get home? Really? There was no one local to call? What the heck were the parents trying to cover up that they didn’t want anyone to come to the house to help their kid?

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How to Celebrate Hanukah

How To Celebrate Hanukkah

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Hanukkah, aka Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication etc, is a fun holiday to celebrate, and it is an excellent opportunity to teach your children more about the miracles of God. (See my last post about why we celebrate…)

As Christmas and Hanukkah are close together, it is somewhat difficult for Christians to celebrate without getting holiday burn out. For this reason we typically have one larger celebratory night and then light the candles only, on other nights. For small children, without much of an attention span, celebrating with small gifts all eight nights sometimes takes the edge of the Christmas craziness…. your choice.

As the Jewish calendar does not line up with the calendar we currently use in the US you will need to google when Hanukkah occurs. You will also need a menorah, aka a Hanukiah, candles and a dreidel. Chocolate coins, known as ‘gelt,’ are also nice for small children. The chocolate is usually of a very cheap variety and will not impress your teens…

An 8 stem menorah is placed in a window. Each night at dusk it is lit from right to left (Hebrew is read from right to left, unlike English). The menorah actually has 9 candles. The extra candle, either in the middle or off to the side, is the slave or servant candle. This candle is lit first and is used to light the other candles. The first night only one candle is lit, the second two etc. The slave candle is also left lit. Hanukkah candles are made to last approximately one hour and burn completely down. Cleaning the menorah of wax is… interesting. (This is not the same menorah that sits in the Temple. The Temple menorah has seven flames and is filled with oil.) Typically the menorah is lit by the mother. A blessing over the candles is said. She then sits for at least 30 minutes while the husband serves the meal. This is to remind us that the victory over the enemy was delivered through the hands of a woman, Judith. The husband may make the entire meal, or merely serve it. This is to prompt the children to ask why mom sits, when she is busy every other night. Jewish traditions often set up situations to prompt the children to ask questions about godly things.

Food: Since this is a holiday which features a miracle of oil, fried foods are king. Potato latkes and jelly donuts are traditional. Feel free to make your own traditions. I like serving olives, from which the oil is made.

Games: The dreidel. A dreidel is a 4 sided top. If you are very creative you can make your own with your children. Otherwise you can buy one- they are relatively inexpensive. Each side has a Hebrew letter. As I do not have a Hebrew type setting, you will have to google this. In the US the 4 letters stand for ‘a miracle happened there.’ In Israel there is a slight difference and the letters stand for ‘a miracle happened here.’
To start everyone puts one piece into the center pot. This can be your gelt (chocolate coins), or pennies, or any other small item you wish to use.
Shin: it looks like a 3 pronged menorah, or w. When you land on shin you put a piece into the pot.
Hey: this looks like an n, a table or a house. If you land on this you take half of the pot. (If it is odd, take the extra.)
Gimmel: This looks like a boot. You take the entire pot. Everyone then places one piece into the pot.
Nun: This looks like a backwards c. You do nothing.
The dreidel game is not meant to be exciting. It was traditionally used to hide the fact that the Jewish people in captivity were teaching their children the Torah, which was against the law. When a stranger approached they resumed the game. The game was uninteresting enough that the foreigners did not want to join in. There are ancient texts with snippets mentioning the Jewish obsession with that boring game!

Music: There is a lot of Hanukkah music- google it and find your favorites. My favorite is The Hanukkah Song by the Bare Naked Ladies on their holiday album, Bare Naked for the Holidays, which contains a lot of interesting, unique Christmas songs as well. (I know, who would have thought a band called Bare Naked Ladies would be the one doing a great job here!)

The candle blessing: If you wish to do this in Hebrew google it and listen to the proper pronunciation, or listen to the Bare Naked Ladies song….. The blessings vary, depending on who you ask, and can vary by night. I do not use the blessings that imply that following the commandments makes us in relationship with God, though it is an important part of the relationship…
Here it is a blessing you can use in English:

Praised (blessed) are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who performed wonderful deeds for our ancestors in those ancient of days at this season.

You can add your own personal prayers as well, thanking God for the small ways He provides for you as well.

 

Chanukah

Chanukah

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Chanukah is a holiday commemorating a miracle that occurred between the times recorded in the Old and the New Testament (erroneously mistaken as the ‘silent times’).
Chanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication (of the Temple), is recorded as being celebrated by Jesus in the New Testament as well, making it a holiday Christians too may celebrate and enjoy. (John 10:22)

To understand Chanukah, which has many spelling options as it is transliterated from Hebrew (spelled as it sounds since the language has a different alphabet), one must go all the was back to Alexander the Great who conquered much of the area surrounding Israel, then died. The vast amounts of captured territory were given to 4 generals, then one was split to include a 5th general. These were ruled somewhat peacefully for a while, until an egomaniac, who named himself Antiochus Epiphenius (god on earth) decided to conquer the other four kingdoms.

Antiochus ruled the Seleucids to the north of Israel and had to travel through Israel to get to the other kingdoms. Now Israel was in an odd position… When Alexander approached Israel the religious leaders met him and showed him prophecies in the Old Testament that appeared to be about him. Alexander assumed this meant that the Israelites were surrendering to him and left. The Israelites assumed that God had saved them through this revelation and believed themselves to be free. Israel paid tribute occasionally after this and everyone was happy.

Antiochus comes through, desecrates the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and destroying everything, including the jars of oil, and tells the Jewish people that they are to worship him. He then sends his troops throughout the countryside to desecrate the Jewish¬†altars that exist in the remote regions. (I know there was only supposed to be one altar, but if you read the Old Testament carefully you will see that the people rarely fully obeyed this rule.) At one altar a priest, Matthias, either pretended he was going to sacrifice the pig and instead attacked the soldiers, or attacked the soldiers while the pig was going to be sacrificed (the accounts I have read differ). In either case, one old priest, who dies of natural causes within the next year, kills a group of trained soldiers. His sons lead the uprising. This is known as the Maccabean Revolt and his son, Judah, is credited as the leader. Maccabee, loosely translated, means ‘strong hammer’ as the Jewish people were short on swords and used whatever they had to fight.

The Jewish people did not have an easy time winning. The turning point of the war came when they were facing the bulk of the enemy army and a young widow, named Judith, snuck into the enemy camp as a camp prostitute with a basket of salted cheese and wine. She entered the enemy commander’s tent, got him well drunk, cut off his head, put it into her basket and returned to the Jewish camp. There she gave the head to the Jewish commander, who presented it to the enemy. This disheartened the troops, and the Jewish people were victorious.

After winning the war, the Jewish priests went to cleanse the Temple. When they entered the Temple, they discovered that there was only one jar of oil to light the menorah, enough for one day. The menorah is needed to light the Temple as the Temple has no windows, but rather the golden walls reflect the light of the menorah inside. It takes 8 days to purify more oil in the manner prescribed for Temple use. As they were motivated to clean the Temple, they began the work immediately. Miraculously the oil lasted all eight days until the new oil was ready and the Temple was cleansed.
Chanukah therefore commemorates not only the miracle of the oil that allowed the Temple to be properly cleansed, but also a victory from oppression.

Remember, the Jewish people could have tried to use oil not prepared properly, inciting God’s wrath. Or, they could have waited to cleanse the Temple. Instead they were fervent in their dedication to the things of God, and did not wish to wait one second more than necessary to begin to honor Him. God saw their commitment and honored them with a miracle that let them know that He was indeed with them. A very personal miracle, showing that God blesses the desires of our hearts in small ways, such as oil lasting longer than it should, as well as large ways, such as the parting of the Red Sea.

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