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This topic kicks-off with some background and ideas about an at-home Advent ritual story-telling (Haggadah) meal. The post below this one has the "Haggadah" script. You are welcome to add our thoughts and suggestions around the topic.

Introducing "Haggadah" into our Homes This Advent

COVID-19 threatens to be the Grinch that stole Christmas in 2020 as social-distancing and travel restrictions cancel or curtail our church gatherings, community events, parties, and family get-togethers.

And yet, part of me is excited for the "mother of invention" in this crisis -- an opportunity to do something different this Advent, something that might help us get out of the spiritual ruts and worn-out traditions of the season --especially at home. Or at the very least, something unexpected that will help us cope and give us hope at the end of a very trying year.

The "Home for the Haggadah" event outlined in the next post does that. It brings Advent into the home in a special way with many of the same touchpoints found in a "normal" year.

In many ways, Christian education has been preparing for this crisis for a very long time. Every year we've been organizing events and creative lessons to help people focus on the reason for the season. And this year we've been encouraging "at-home" religious instruction like never before (and getting a better "buy-in" from many families than ever before). All that's needed is some creative thinking -- which is never in short supply here at Rotation.org or Christian education teams!

When I went looking for a celebration of the Christmas story that could take place at home around a meal, and involve ritual and scripture I didn't have to look very far! Those elements are found in the two Jewish festivals which Jesus himself celebrated, the festivals of Hannukah and Passover. (See John 10:22 and Matthew 26:26.)

Like most Sunday School teachers, I've done Passover Seders to teach the Exodus story. I've even helped write Seder lessons here at Rotation.org. Here's a Last Supper Seder lesson, one that uses the Seder format to retell the story of the Cross, and some Seder ideas in our public forum Seder posts.

seasonoflightMost of us  have never done anything with Hanukkah for two reasons:  (1) Hanukkah happens at the SAME TIME as Advent, and (2) the story comes from the "Apocrypha" -- a part of the Bible which Protestants respect but don't consider canon and don't teach in Sunday School. AND YET...  here's Hanukkah the "Festival of Light" celebrated at home with traditional foods and candles RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of Advent, the "Season of Light".

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Hagga"
"Hagga" who?
"Ha-gga-dah new idea for Advent this year!"

"Haggadah"

"Haggadah" is the Hebrew word for "storytelling." In Jewish rabbinic writings (The Talmud), "haggadah" is what they call the Passover Seder (a meal centered around the telling of the Exodus story). But technically speaking, Hanukkah and Advent are "haggadahs" too, as is the Lord's Supper and Holy Week itself because they are special times when we retell a special story with special scriptures, rituals, foods, and singing.

Though it's a Hebrew word, the concept of "haggadah" is not unique to Judaism or Christianity. Ritual meals and storytelling are found across cultures and throughout history wherever human beings hunger for community and religious meaning. From campfires to Stonehenge, in great Cathedrals and around your dining room table, we create special places and events to tell our most special stories -- the stories of where we come from, who we are, and to whom we belong, and where we are going.

The Hanukkah "Haggadah" (storytelling)

Also known as the "Festival of Dedication" or "Festival of Lights," Hanukkah means "dedication" or "consecration" in Hebrew. The Festival of Hanukkah celebrates the story of the Jewish Maccabean revolt and triumph over their Greek oppressors and rededication of the Jewish Temple in the 2nd Century B.C. Part of the story recalls the miraculous sacred oil that didn't run out during the Temple dedication. To remember the story, celebrants light eight candles over eight nights, give gifts, and feast on traditional foods many of which are fried in oil (rich foods populate Advent celebrations too).

There are obvious thematic parallels between Hanukkah and Advent, such as candles and light (light coming into the world, Jn 1), gift-giving, dedication, and feasting are serendipitously coincidental. Hanukkah's date was set by 1 Maccabees 4:36-52, whereas the nearby date of Christmas' was set by a 4th century A.D. Pope. Advent is "worship-centric" while Hanukkah has no special service. 

The following YouTube video has an excellent explanation of Hanukkah, how Jews typically celebrate it, and how Christians can adapt its common themes. https://youtu.be/MfZG8lQm3RM

In the following posts, I'm going to suggest an at-home Advent Haggadah that draws on practices found in both the Seder and Hanukkah celebrations to create a fun ritual retelling of the Advent story for families to share at home. IIt will include traditional foods of course, and it includes Advent candles rather than a Menorah. The story of the Maccabees isn't part of it either, just some of the home-use ideas.

You might even call it:

"Home for the Haggadah"

I hope you enjoy these ideas and will add to them. Continue on down for my Advent Haggadah and suggestions from others.

<>< Neil

Neil MacQueen is a Presbyterian minister specializing in Christian education. He is also the Lead Writer for the Rotation.org Writing Team.

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An At-Home Advent Haggadah

a ritual meal with "storytelling" and candle lighting

AdventHaggadah

This is an invented and inventive celebration centered around a home meal. We've borrowed bits and pieces from three great storytelling celebrations, Seder, Hanukkah, and the lighting of the Advent Candles, to create a familiar and approachable at-home celebration of the Advent story for Christians during the COVID pandemic. (In fact, you will note a 2020 "pastoral tone" to the questions and blessings.)

"Haggadah" is the Hebrew word for "telling a story." Please read the explanation of Jesus' connection with both the Passover Seder and Hanukkah here at Rotation.org. Notably, the storytelling in this "haggadah" meal includes participants reflecting on their OWN story this year. Links to the scriptures have been provided so participants can look them up on a tablet or cellphone. Who knows? Perhaps it will inspire a new tradition in the years to come.

Feel free to be inventive yourself if needed, adapting any of the following suggestions to your needs and situation.

From the Passover Seder we are borrowing the "scripted" nature of the Passover meal and the tradition of raising "cups of blessing."

From Hanukkah's "Festival of Lights, Rededication" we are borrowing part of the Maccabean story that is retold during Hanukkah and the lighting of candles.

From the Lighting of the Advent Candles practiced in most Christian churches on the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve, we are borrowing the five candles and their traditional meaning along with some of the traditional scriptures and carols heard on those Sunday.  Together, the following functions as an  "At-Home Lessons and Carols."

Link to a shareable PDF copy of the script



An Advent Haggadah

The menu:

Choose your own menu, just remember to include a sweet dessert (a feature of Hanukkah celebrations). You will also need a special drink for the "blessings."

You will need nine candles:

  • 5 Advent Candles
  • 3 additional candles for the Menorah
  • And 1 to light all the others (the "Shamash" or "servant" candle)


Assign a leader to follow this outline and prompt participants.

Each participant is assigned one of the four Advent candles to be lit, along with the "Question" they are to ask and answer. If the person is too young to read, have someone "repeat after me" so the child can say the words and answer. Each Question can be answered by as many participants who want to.

Each participant will need a special cup or glass filled with a beverage to join in the "cup of blessing" (in the Seder this is called the "Kiddush"). When the leader recites the blessing, participants "clink" their glasses with each other (in a manner that honors and passes the blessing).

The familiar hymn verses being sung with each candle lighting are only one verse long. If you wish to sing more of them, please do so. If you need song lyrics, they can easily be found online using a cellphone or tablet. Ideally, everyone will sing the verse together, but you may also assign verses ahead of time so that people can practice, or have one or two people do the singing while others following along. Sing the verses twice if needed.

Prepare the Meal and Table

As you prepare the table, explain to everyone that tonight's meal is going to be "led by" one of you and each person is going to have a special part to say and perform. If you have not already done so, explain that the following meal "borrows" from several traditions, including the Jewish Passover Seder Meal and Hanukkah celebration, as well as the Christian tradition of lightning candles on the Sundays of Advent. The point of all three traditions is to "tell the story" of God's goodness and mercy. Menu suggestions at the end of this post.

Invite everyone to have a "job to do" in preparing the meal and setting the table.

The Welcome to the Table

Before sitting down, gather around the table and explain that the leader will be pausing several times during the meal to invite each participant to share special words, light candles, and sing a verse from a Christmas hymn.

Then, have the oldest person turns to the youngest and ask them "Why is this night so special?"  (This is a traditional question from Passover.) After the youngest answers, the oldest then completes the answer with their own thoughts, invites everyone to take a seat and offers up a prayer of praise to God from whom all blessings flow.

The Haggadah (story) and Lighting of the Advent Candles

Five times during the meal participants will pause to watch one of the candles be lit and answer a question. "When" is up to you. Starting with the youngest and proceeding to the oldest, assign who gets to light which candle. You may choose to have everyone who wants to answer the question or just the person lighting that candle.

Light the candle as someone reads the "Question" (which includes some scripture).

Candle 1: Hope

Scripture: Isaiah 2:2-4 "In the days to come..."

Question: What has been the hardest part of this past year for you personally? And for us as a family? What do you hope for in the coming year?

Cup of Blessing: May we live in the house of the Lord, learn his ways, and walk his paths which are goodness, justice, and mercy. Amen.

Song Verse: O Little Town of Bethlehem (the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight)

Candle 2: Peace

Scripture: Isaiah 9:6 "Prince of Peace"

Question: What turmoil or trouble or personal battle have you been experiencing that you need some "peace" about this Christmas and in the coming year?

Cup of Blessing: May the God of Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph bring peace to our souls and to our world. And may we be the instruments of that peace!  Amen.

Song Verse:  Silent Night ... (sleep in heavenly peace)

Candle 3: Joy

Scripture: Luke 2:8-20, the story of the angels surprising the shepherds

Question: Which person are you in the Christmas story and why?

  1. The lowly shepherds who are feeling a bit dazed and amazed this Christmas.
  2. Mary or Joseph putting your trust in God that everything will turn out for the best.
  3. The Magi/Wisemen who are searching for something or someone who will make the world a better place.

Cup of Blessing: May the God of great surprises find us and lead us to great joy in the year ahead. Amen!

Song Verse: Joy to the World (...and heaven and nature sing!)

Candle 4: Love

Scripture: John 3:16 for God so loved the world

Question: If Jesus were having dinner with us right now, what would you ask him? What would he say to us?

Cup of Blessing: May we know that no matter where we are on our journey with God, he loves us and the world which he created. May we love God, his world, and each other now and even more in the year ahead.

Song Verse: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (...God and sinners reconciled!)

Candle 5: The Christ Candle.

If you are celebrating this Haggadah on Christmas Eve, go ahead and light the Christ Candle while someone reads aloud the words of John 1:1-18. Then enjoy a cup of blessing and sing the first verse of "O Holy Night."  Otherwise, explain that it is to remain unlit and moved after the meal to a place of honor in the home so that it can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner (your choice).

Close by lighting the remaining candles to form a "menorah" and sharing dessert.

mceclip0You have already lit four (or five) candles, so now arrange them in a row and add four (or three) more unlit candles to form an eight candle "Menorah." (The word "menorah" is the Hebrew word for "candlestick" or "lampstand" from the word "to give light.")

Final Cup of Blessing: When Jesus walked the earth, one of the Holy Days he celebrated was the "Festival of Lights" (John 10:22). This festival is also known as "Hanukkah" and is still celebrated every December by our Jewish friends. The festival celebrates a rededication to the worship of God after a very troubling time in the life of the Jewish nation when their Temple had been taken over by a bad king named Antiochus the IV.

When they recaptured the Temple, they realized they did not have enough sacred oil to keep the Menorah or Temple Lampstand lit for more than a day, but in fact, the Menorah miraculously stayed lit for eight days! It was a sign that God had not forgotten them. (Light the candles here.)

And tonight we remember that once again God has not forgotten us - for unto us a child has been given, a wonderful counselor, a mighty God, and prince of peace. And so tonight we too rededicate ourselves to this child of light after a troubling and challenging year.  May the God of light shine on you and shine through you in the days and years ahead. Amen!  

Raise and enjoy the final cup of blessing, then bring out the dessert!

Written by Neil MacQueen for the Rotation.org Writing Team


Resources

Menu Suggestion:

Keep it simple so you can focus on the celebration. Soup, salad, bread, and a sweet desert. Consider sparkling grape juice for the cups of blessing.

tabletlyricsScripture and Hymn Lyrics

I've purposely kept the scriptures and hymns short. You are welcome to expand them. I suggest you have a tablet computer handy to look up the scriptures and Christmas lyrics online.

How to Light the Menorah on Hanukkah

There are eight oil candles on a traditional menorah, each representing one of the days that the Temple oil did not run out during its rededication. One candle is lit at sundown on the first day, often as part of a meal, and left to burn for 30 minutes.  Each night an additional candle is lit until all the eighth day when all are lit. A ninth candle called the "servant" or "shamash" is used to light all the others. There is no elaborate liturgy to Hanukkah, rather, it is a simple act of thanksgiving for deliverance, a rededication to the faith, and a time to be together with family.

https://www.chabad.org/holiday...ight-the-Menorah.htm

The traditional meaning and scriptures assigned to the Advent Candles

Use the same "lighting" scriptures your church is using in its Advent worship this year.

There is no single "correct" way to do this liturgy and the scriptures assigned to each candle can change according to the liturgy or lectionary assignments. In my Presbyterian tradition and others, the four candles are sometimes labeled, "hope, peace, joy, and love." The first two candles, usually purple, reference the hope of the Prophets. The third candle (often pink) represents the joy of Mary or the Shepherds, or Magi. The fourth candle speaks of the love of God entering our world through Jesus (John 3:16 for example). In all traditions the fifth white candle is the Christ candle lit either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. John 1:1-18 is commonly read for the Christ candle.

Remember that you can include members of your family and friends in your Advent Haggadah by ZOOM or FACETIME.

nativityzoom

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On a "meal-related" note...

GenOn Ministries' (the LOGOS fellowship people) have a set of Advent meal lesson plans for children and families titled:

Guests at Our Tables: Celebrating Advent During a Pandemic

With minor adaptations, the celebrations could work well at home—either gathering their own supplies or having a church leader create pick-up kits for them. Each celebration stands alone and is sold separately. The resource is downloadable so can be emailed to all in the church. See the list of what's in each lesson below.

The introduction and the Eating and Playing Together sessions of “Saint Andrew” are available as a sample of the series. Attached to this post at Rotation is part of the St Andrew's meal plan. Click the image to enlarge it:

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A Guest at Our Table: Saint Andrew (Advent)
Eating Together: Scotland-themed traditions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Make a Saint Andrew’s Cross ornament
Studying God’s Word Together: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 and John 6:1-13, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candle, song, prayer

A Guest at Our Table: Saint Nicholas (Advent)
Eating Together: Dutch-themed traditions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Make a Saint Nicholas puppet, treat bags for local food pantry
Studying God’s Word Together: 2 Peter 3:8-15a, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candle, song, prayer

A Guest at Our Table: Saint Lucia (Advent)
Eating Together: Swedish-themed traditions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Create a Faith Poem, woven heart basket ornaments
Studying God’s Word Together: John 1:5-8, 19-28, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candle, song, prayer

A Guest at Our Table: Mary and Joseph (Advent)
Eating Together: Mexico-themed traditions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Las Posadas procession, luminaries
Studying God’s Word Together: Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candle, song, prayer

A Guest at Our Table: Jesus (Christmas)
Eating Together: International-themed traditions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Record stories of family Christmas traditions
Studying God’s Word Together: Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candles, song, prayer

A Guest at Our Table: The Magi (Epiphany)
Eating Together: Star-themed suggestions (w/decorations, menu, blessing)
Playing Together: Searching for Jesus game, flashlight Q&A activity
Studying God’s Word Together: Matthew 2:1-12, reflection topics
Praying Together: Lighting the Advent candles, song, prayer

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Video Resources for Teaching about Hanukkah

for children and younger youth and their families

Sesame Street's 2 minute "About Hanukkah" animated video. https://youtu.be/3VfChLAADS8

RugRat's Hanukkah special. 5 minutes. https://youtu.be/Ry3De1WiofE

Church Lady and Buck Denver tell you in this 2 minute kid-friendly clip. Posted by WhatsintheBible.com, from the series by the same name. https://youtu.be/bvG6VMIFKRc


For youth and adults:

View a young pastor talking about Why Christians should celebrate Hanukkah. Posted by Founded in Truth. https://youtu.be/MfZG8lQm3RM

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Give Me Oil in My Lamp 

A song for Hanukkah too!

This old camp sing-a-long favorite has several different versions and many different verses. It's easy for all ages, with or without musical accompaniment. 

Here's a basic version of the song "Give Me Oil in My Lamp" on YouTube from Wee Sing Bible Songs.

The song's opening verse is said to allude to the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids holding lamps and waiting for the groom (Jesus). But its imagery can also easily apply to Hanukkah -- the festival that includes the miracle of the oil in the Temple lampstand burning for eight days. (oil lamps, not candles as used today.)

There are two versions of the song: the one they sing in church and children's choirs, and the one we sing at camp and in youth groups!  I'm suggesting the "camp" version because it has some funny rhymes in it and can be sung fast, slow, and with motions -- meaning: kids will WANT to sing it and will long remember it.  

Here's the first verse eponymous with the name of the song and the repeating chorus sung after each verse:

Verse 1
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning

Give me oil in my lamp, I pray
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning,
Keep me burning till the break of day
Chorus:
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna

Sing hosanna to the King of Kings (hallelujah)
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
Sing hosanna, to the King.


Here are some of the fun "camp lyrics" of the song you may remember:

Give me gas for my Ford, keep me trucking for the Lord
Give me gas for my Ford, I pray.
Give me gas for my Ford, keep me trucking for the Lord,
keep me trucking til the break of day.

Give me wax for my board, keep me surfing for the Lord
Give me wax for my board, I pray...

Give me sauce for my taco, let me witness in Morocco,
Give me sauce for my taco, I pray...

For fun, I invited my "Dove Club" kids to create new verses. Here are two they came up with:

Give me seed I'm a bird, keep me chirping for the Lird.
Give me seed I'm a bird, I pray.
Give me seed I'm a bird, keep me chirping for the Lird, 
Keep me chirping til the break of day.

Give me blankets 'fore I freezus, keep me warm and safe with Jezus.
Give me blankets 'fore I freezus, I pray
Give me blankets 'fore I freezus, keep me warm and safe with Jezus.
Keep me warm and safe til the break of day.

Of course, each verse is an opportunity to explore the metaphor with kids. 

One of the favorite parts of the song for our kids club was trying to quickly sing the word "hallelujah" which they tried to wedge into the chorus without breaking the song timing. Always brought a lot of smiles.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
Sing hosanna to the King of Kings (hallelujah)
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
Sing hosanna, to the King.

What other verses can you come up with? (realizing that coming up fun verses is a good discussion starter)

Give me peace for my spirit, to your presence draw me near it
Give me joy in this season, keep me burning for the reason
Give me oil Zechariah, while we wait for the Messiah 
Give me reasus for the seasus, that's it's all about you Jesus 

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Hanukkah Background & Devotional Resource:

"Light in the Darkness
-- A Hanukkah Devotional for Jesus Followers"

by Pastor Ron Shifley

I ordered my copy from Amazon for $5.99. It's also available on Barnes and Noble. It's a short and easy to read book.

The book begins with a background and explanation of Hanukkah, Ron also explains why Christians should care to celebrate it (which seems pretty obvious once you've read about it and looked into it).

The main part of the book is 8 short devotionals -- one for each night or candle. The Prayers for each candle are particularly good. I liked the way they had me personally reflecting on the meaning of the story and its themes.

"Light in the Darkness"  would be a great resource for creating a Hanukkah celebration, or those who want to weave the wonderful themes and story of Hanukkah into their preaching or teaching.

Pastor Ron is one of our amazing supporting member of Rotation.org. He posted his Hanukkah Sunday School lessons in our Jewish Roots lesson forum.

Table of Contents:

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