Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus

Imagine if you will, you are the leader of the world (at that time, it was considered the world) and you have all these schedules and apt books and nothing and nobody makes any changes without you knowing about it. But then GOD comes along and plants the idea in your head to have a census of the Roman world. And as a result of this census God moves the entire world to fulfill what had been said by the prophet Micah so a baby can be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2). But of course we know it's not just any baby, we know that Jesus was going to be born according to the Prophet Isaiah (Isa 7:14)

Now those that follow Jesus know that this is not not his real birthday. But since we don't know exactly when HE was born, Dec 25th is a good time as any to celebrate. Now we can stomp our feet and declare that it is wrong to celebrate it on this day as it is a pagan day and you can come up with chapter and verse to prove your point. Or you can look at it from another point of few and realize "A Day To Honor HIM"! That's what it's really about anyway, is a day to honor Jesus. Remember HIM? He's the one that born and died so that we wouldn't have to and as a result HE gave us a freedom. A Freedom to worship him or not, a freedom to follow him or not, a freedom to celebrate HIS birthday whenever we want.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Story of Hanukkah

According to mainstream Jewish tradition, the story of Hanukah goes something like this. In 333 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Syria, Egypt and Babylonia, and promoted a lenient form of Hellenistic culture, encouraging the study of the language, customs and dress of the Greeks. Alexander was not necessarily bad to the Jews, and a legend tells that when he marched through Jerusalem he asked the High Priest to erect a statue to his honor within the Temple. The High Priest told Alexander that such was forbidden, though the Jewish people would construct a "living memorial" by naming all their firstborn sons after the great king. Alexander agreed to this and things went fairly well for the Jews. Nevertheless, the encounter of the Jewish people and their Torah-based ethics with the worldview of ancient Greece proved to be a traumatic shock which ultimately threatened to undermine the very existence of Judaism.

Over a century later, in 167 BCE, the ripened fruit of Hellenization began to appear in the form of one of Alexander's successors, the Syrian king Antiochus IV ("Epiphanes"), who began to openly persecute the Jews. Among other atrocities, Antiochus appointed a Hellenistic "High Priest" to the Temple, prohibited the study of the Torah, and desecrated the altar by requiring pigs to be sacrificed on it (the Jews referred to Antiochus not as Epiphanes, "God (i.e., Zeus) made manifest," but rather as Epimanes - "the madman.")

These outrages finally incited rebellion, and by 165 BCE the Hasmonean family of Mattathias the High Priest and his youngest son, Judah "Maccabee" (the "Hammer"), organized a revolt that eventually succeeded in evicting the Syrian-Greeks from Israel. The Temple in Jerusalem was liberated but needed to be rededicated for Jewish worship.

According to later tradition (as recorded in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b)), at the time of the rededication (on Kislev 25), there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Syrian-Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah to burn continually in the Temple, but there was only enough to last for one day. Miraculously, the sanctified oil burned for eight days -- the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.

Thanks to Hebrews 4 Christians for this history.