The celebration of Hanukkah is distinctly Jewish. It has to do with remembering when a small group of revolutionaries (The Maccabees), reclaimed the Holy Temple of God at Jerusalem from foreign occupation. The feast is eight days long, symbolic of the miracle at that time, when there was only enough oil to keep the Temple’s lamps lit for one day, but God kept the light going for eight days.
But while Hanukkah is particularly a Jewish feast it bears some resemblance to Christmas. It is a time of great joy and giving of presents; in fact, they give presents every day for the full eight-day celebration. And Jewish parents have to guard against the same Christmas danger of the “genuine gift of faith” getting lost in the giftwrap.
My two older children probably roll their eyes every time Mom and Dad retell this story, but one Christmas before they were both six years old we hand-made special gifts.
There was a doll house the size of a LazyBoy™ recliner for Jennifer; Jason got a soap box racer that took up half our living room. It took two economy-sized 24-roll packs of giftwrap to cover these two hand-crafted masterpieces.
But, when all was said and done on Christmas morning – breakfast, the tree and opening of gifts, all they wanted to do was play in the pile of giftwrap; the two gifts were not even on their radar!
For Jewish kids and Christian kids, receiving gifts and connecting the dots to faith is a challenge to which parents must pay attention.
For the Jewish community of old, the Temple, which had been dedicated by Solomon and all the people, was a symbol of God’s presence and blessing. As the saying has it, you never appreciate what you have until you lose it. This was never truer for the people of God as when that Temple had been taken from them. To get it back against great odds, and have the initial worship experiences punctuated by a one-day’s supply of lamp oil lasting eight days…well, you need to remember that, because it speaks loudly of faith and God’s faithfulness.
It’s never just about the gifts.
Can the same not be applied here at Christmas for the Christian community? The world was in great spiritual darkness and the Daystar came from heaven’s glory to rescue those who walk blinded by our own sin. Our lamps had NO oil, and the Light of the World came to be our gift.
For you, today
Think about some way your gifts this year can overcome the “lost in giftwrap” syndrome.
Find a way to make your gifts speak of faith in The Gift; He is worthy of that!