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Christmas is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the son of God. However it is not only a Christian festival. Christmas has roots in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festivals of the ancient Greeks, the beliefs of the Druids and the folk customs of Europe.
 

picture of mennorahEach December, the Jewish community celebrates a festival of lights, called ‘Hanukkah’.
Over 2,100 years ago, King Antiochus (the Greek ruler of Syria) had control over the land of Israel, his southern neighbour. Whilst the Jews believed in one God, the king insisted that they worship many gods, including himself. 
A Jewish rebellion started against the far greater forces of the occupying armies. After 3 years of war, the Jewish leader - Judah Maccabee - re-took Jerusalem’s Temple, built by the Jews for the worship of God. The Temple had been desecrated, abused - by worshipping pagan gods whose statues had been placed there. 
The Jews set about re-dedicating the Temple to God. There were 8 days of festivities. In the Temple, the oil lamps of the Menorah - a branched candlestick -were lit again, but there was only enough oil for them to burn for one day. Miraculously, the oil burnt for 8 days until new oil was obtained, and so ‘Hanukkah’ has become an 8-day festival.
 Nowadays, as Hanukkah is celebrated, recalling the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews re-dedicate them-selves to God. It is a happy time, and presents are given. Pancakes are eaten, and children play a game with a spinning top that bears 4 Hebrew letters, standing for the words: “A great miracle happened here.”
At nightfall on the first day of Hanukkah, one candle is lit. Each night another branch of the candlestick is lit, until by the end of the Festival, all 8 are alight. 
Let us pray. Basing our words on Jewish prayers used at this time. Of course we need to remind ourselves that our own bodies are ‘living temples’ and every bit as important as the old temple was that once stood in Jerusalem.