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COMPLETE LESSON SET: 1 Maccabees - The Story of Hanukkah ~ Rev. Ron Shifley

1 Maccabees 4:6-59 "The Story of Hanukkah"

Editor's Note: Below are several lesson plans that Pastor Ron Shifley wrote for his church's children's ministry.

You can find a related discussion of "at-home" celebration of Hanukkah for Christian families in our Advent Resources forum. It includes an "Advent Haggadah" script and further explanation of both the Hanukkah story and how Christians can (and should) embrace its story and themes.

Summary of all workshop lessons in this Rotation:

  • Video: Watch "Maccabees: Story of Hanukkah (Nest Family).
  • Computer: Watch a clip of a web-based video on the origins of Hanukkah, read the text from one of the suggestions provide (Ilumina or Glo Bible, etc).  Use Cal & Marty to learn the verse Psalm 27:1.
  • Puppets: Perform a puppet show, script provided.
  • Art: Decorate a clay jar and make a scroll to go inside it.
  • Games & Cooking: Watch a clip from Rugrats-Chanukah episode, learn how to play Dreidels and make fried donuts.

    Note: Ron's church uses the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School. The graded classes in his Sunday School rotate to a different workshop each Sunday to learn about the same story through a different teaching medium (one workshop per week). Ron's "rotation" lessons below would cover a typical 5-week rotation. It could be adapted as a "four or five stations" children's or intergenerational event.

Unit Memory Verse: "The LORD is my light and salvation - whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1)

Main Idea:
The story of 1 Maccabees, recounts the origins of the biblical holiday of Hanukkah that Jesus himself celebrated at the  Jerusalem Temple (John 10:22-23).

Bible Background

The Book of 1 Maccabees recounts Jewish history during the 400 year period between the times that the Old and New Testaments were written.  It recounts a time when Jerusalem and the land of Judea was occupied by the Greeks under the rule of King Antiochus, following the conquest and death of the legendary Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great.

King Antiochus, who reigned from 175-163 B.C. instituted a violent anti-Jewish policy.  Circumcision, Sabbath worship, teaching the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament), and observance of the commandments were all banned.  Torah scrolls were burned, the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by idol worship, and orders were issued to erect altars to Zeus and other Greek gods throughout the countryside.  Biblical faith was on the verge of being wiped out of existence.

In 168 B.C. the Jewish priest Mattathias started a revolt against the Greek oppression.  Upon Mattathias death in 166 B.C., his son, Judas the Maccabee (which means “Hammer", succeeded him as leader of the revolt. [Note: Various texts use either  the name Judas or Judah to designate the same person] The Book of 1 Maccabees recounts how Judas succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem and purifying the Temple. The Temple was rededicated for worship of the LORD in 165 B.C.  These events gave birth to the biblical holiday, the annual eight-day Feast of Dedication, called Hanukkah, which Jesus celebrated in Jerusalem (John 10:22-23) and which continues to be observed by God’s people to this day.

Even though this story takes place between the times of the Old and New Testaments, and is not included in the 66 books of the Bible, it is a vital story of how faith in God helped bring about victory for God’s chosen people.  1 Maccabees draws upon God’s acts in the Old Testament stories of Exodus 14:21-31 and 1 Samuel 14:1-15; 17:40-51 as inspiration  to raise up a faithful remnant who would stand up for the God of Israel in their own generation.  If the Maccabees had failed in their fight to free God’s people from the religious suppression of the Greeks, the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob might have been extinguished and the New Testament might never have been written.  The miracle of Hanukkah sets the stage for a faithful Jewish community who longed for a Messiah (an anointed one) to come as God’s deliverer.  That Savior is Jesus the Christ.  The faith community of the New Testament would not have existed if it were not for the faith and courage of the Maccabees and God’s hand of salvation that worked through them 150 years before the birth of Christ.  These are important lessons to pass onto our children when we retell this story.

Read the actual text from 1 Maccabees 4:6-59 here:

Written by Rev. Ron Shifley from Scotland United Church of Christ
Scotland, SD, USA

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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