Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rediscovering Jane

Yesterday evening I was reading "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen, and this morning I happened to stumble upon the information that her birthday was just a few days ago, December 16, 1775. A few years ago I read "Pride and Prejudice" (I think I read it all the way through) , and I love watching the movies based on her books and her life, but now I am rediscovering her.

She was only 41 years old when she died. I am 41. Wow. To think that she wrote all of those lovely books before she reached the age I am now! What an accomplishment! And the language! The beautiful, complicated way she expressed herself on paper, while here I am, writing in incomplete sentences (and not even on paper)! Did people really speak like that in her time? Or did she just have an amazing way with words? I like to imagine it was a little bit of both. Reading her work brings to memory the reason why I love reading books written in a time other than my own. It's like being transported to a more elegant, romantic time. Yes, I understand that I am reading fiction, but it is like a looking through a little window into the way people thought, spoke, and conducted themselves during that time. Reading Jane Austen always inspires me to attempt to speak, dress, and act a bit more eloquently. I think we all could use a little dose of Jane once in awhile.

Here is a video of the home in Chawton where she spent the final years of her life. It is now a museum preserved in her memory.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why I Love Hanukkah

This is the third year that my little family and I have celebrated Hanukkah together, and I absolutely love it! Here are eight reasons why:

1. I love the history of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is different than most of the other "Jewish" holidays, because it is not one that was appointed by God. It is, however, full of meaning and historical significance. Here is a very brief history of Hanukkah:

The events we commemorate at Hanukkah took place around the year 164 B.C.E. There was a Syrian/Greek king in power over the land of Judea, who ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs, and to worship the Greek gods, including defiling the holy Temple in Jerusalem with pagan idols and sacrilegious sacrifices. The penalty for disobeying was torture and death. There were many Jews who did what they were told, but some refused. One who courageously refused was Judah Maccabee. Judah and his four brothers, the grandchildren of the Temple high priest, formed a small army. They were miraculously successful in driving out the powerful Syrian Greeks, and they reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to purify the Temple and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the Temple was rededicated.
Legend says that when Judah and his followers finished cleaning the Temple, they wanted to light the Eternal Light, the menorah. Once lit, this oil lamp should never be extinguished. Only one container of oil was found with the high priest's seal; only enough for one day. They went ahead and lit the lamp, and a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days, which was the required amount of time to prepare new oil!

2. I love that Hanukkah is a celebration of light.

Hanukkah is called the "Festival of Lights", referring to the flames kindled each night, and the "Festival of Light" because of the victory of light over darkness. The menorah is the symbol for divine light. I love the fact that Jesus (Yeshua) proclaimed Himself to be the "Light of the World" in John 8:12. The menorah is a symbol of Yeshua, Light of the World!!! I think of this whenever I look at the hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah).

3. I love that Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles.

It was a miracle that the Maccabees triumphed over such a powerful force. I read that the opposing army even had elephants at their disposal! It was also a miracle that the oil lasted for eight nights instead of just one. In John (chapter 10), Yeshua was in the Temple during Hanukkah, and he spoke of the miracles He performed while here on earth. At Hanukkah we remember these miracles and the many miracles that God has chosen to perform throughout the Bible and throughout our own lives.

4. I love that Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication.

"Hanukkah" means dedication. We remember the rededication of the Temple, and we remember that we are God's temple (I Cor. 3:16). Hanukkah can be a time to examine our lives and make sure we are not letting ungodly things in the "temple", and rededicate ourselves and our lives to God.

5. I love the food we eat at Hanukkah.

A holiday when we can eat foods fried in oil? YES! Yum! I love the jelly filled doughnuts and latkes...especially latkes!

6. I love the family traditions of Hanukkah.

We are developing our own family traditions during Hanukkah. We like to exchange a special gift each night. I love choosing just the right gift for each person. We try to have a special dinner or treat each night. We say the blessings, light the Hanukkah menorah and have a nice family night at home while the candles burn. This is a good reminder to us of what is important in our lives, as it can be a challenge in today's busy world to spend eight nights in a row at home with family.

7. I love that Hanukkah is an opportunity to shine!

Yeshua told his disciples "You are the light of the world." and "...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:14, 17). As a follower of Yeshua, I want to let my light shine for Him! Hanukkah presents a wonderful opportunity to do this. Many people don't even know what Hanukkah is, and when they find out we celebrate it, they want to we tell them!

8. I love that Hanukkah lasts for eight nights.

We have eight nights to remember, rededicate ourselves, spend family time together, eat great food, open special gifts, and be encouraged to stand up for what we believe in and shine our light! I love Hanukkah!