To explain the festival of Hanukah and think about the light of God in our lives.
by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explain the festival of Hanukah, and think about the light of God in our lives.
Note: There is another Hanukah assembly, with more detail of how the festival is celebrated today, permanently available in the Festivals of World Religions section.
Preparation and materials
- You will need nine candles and some matches.
- Ask the children whether they have ever been made to do something they didn't want to do? In fact, they hated doing it? How do you think David Beckham would feel if he had to do ballet? Maybe he would like it, or maybe he would hate it? Or what if the head teacher had to dress up as a pantomime horse every day? How do you think I would feel if someone said to me at a Christmas nativity service, 'You can't worship Jesus, you've got to pray to the donkey?'
- Explain that this is a story about when a whole country had to do things they didn't want to, and how they reacted to it.
A long time ago there was a very difficult time for God's people, the Jews. They were invaded by the Syrians. And the Syrians said, 'You have to be like us. You have to talk like us, eat like us, do the things we do.' As you can imagine, the Jews weren't too happy.
They were even less happy when the particularly nasty king, Antiochus, said: 'You have to call me God. And I'm going to take a pig into your lovely temple in Jerusalem, where you worship your God, and I'm going to kill it there. And anyone who disagrees will be in trouble!'
This was the last straw for many of the Jews. Although they were outnumbered by the invaders, they went to war against them, and eventually won. They drove the Syrians out.
But, oh dear, when they got Jerusalem back the place was a mess. The buildings were in ruins with graffiti all over them, especially in the Temple. So the Jews tried to put it right again. And one of the things they tried to put right was this.
(Get out eight candles.)
They had a lamp with eight candles, which was called a menorah, and which used to remind them that God was like a light in their darkness. This lamp needed oil to make it burn, though, and they could only find enough oil for one day. It would take eight days to bring more supplies of oil. What should they do? They decided to light it anyway.
(Ask a child to light the eight candles.)
Do you know what happened? The lamp didn't go out after one day, it didn't go out after two days. It kept on going for eight days, until they could bring some more oil. Amazing.
- So, ever since then, the people of God who want to celebrate this miracle light candles at a feast called Hanukah. You might see these candles in the windows of some people's houses.
- Blow out the candles. And then they always have a ninth candle. Bring it out and light it. Does anyone know what they use this for? To light the others. Light all the other candles using the ninth. At the same time, say this: Winter is very dark, but Hanukah reminds people that God is the light when things get difficult, when we have to do things that we don't want to do. But he also wants us to be like the last candle. The one that can light up others.
Time for reflection
A quiet thought: How can you bring light to people today?
Thank you that your light burns even longer than we hope for.
Help us to be light to others.
'Colours of day' (Come and Praise, 55)