Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

There is a lot of talk right now about Thanksgivukkah, what with American Thanksgiving and Hanukkah falling on the same day. The last time this happened was 125 years ago, and it will be nearly 77,000 years until Hanukkah, based on the Jewish calendar and Thanksgiving, based on the Gregorian calendar, intersect again.

Most of the talk I've heard centers around food -- sweet potato latkes, deep fried turkey, stuffing made with bagels and challah. After all, both holidays have their food traditions, many of which have overshadowed the reason for the holiday.

But it's the reason for each of these celebrations that interests me. Hanukkah, the celebration of lights, is a commemoration of God providing for the Jewish people. When Syria outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods, the Jews revolted, and the Maccabees drove the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaimed their temple. This was in 165 BC. They wanted to light an eternal flame in the temple, but had only enough oil for one night. The small amount of oil lasted for eight days, until more purified oil became available, and it is this miracle, and the rededication of their temple, that is celebrated at Hanukkah.

The Pilgrims arrived in the New World in 1620. After difficult conditions, failing crops and sickness took the lives of many of their group, the following year their harvest was bountiful. With the help of the native Americans and the grace of God, they survived, and they celebrated the blessings they had received with a feast. We call it Thanksgiving.

In Hanukkah and Thanksgiving we see two peoples, nearly 2000 years apart, receiving amazing provision from the Hand of God. Both groups were also in search of religious freedom, which came at a high price. Yet God preserved them both.

As we celebrate tomorrow -- Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or Thanksgivukkah -- let's not allow the wonderful food or the fellowship overshadow the truth that God is our provider and He is our Help. Let's thank Him from honest hearts for His mighty deeds.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done...
Psalm 105:1-5

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