While most of my friends are getting ready for Christmas soon, I'm getting ready for Hanukkah. While I have nothing against giving gifts and eating together with my family on December 25th, pondering the miraculous birth of Emmanuel leads me to believe that Jesus Christ most likely was not born on that day.
History tells us otherwise. Common sense says that If the shepherds in Israel were out in the fields watching their flocks by night, it would not have occurred in freezing cold winter, when no grass grows in the fields.
The birth of Jesus Christ was most likely in the springtime, around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. I will wish Him a happy birthday anyway and be grateful that He was born and that pure Love came to Earth but I won't participate in the frantic, materialistic greed that often accompanies it. I can do without the commercialism. To me, this time of year is about family, friends and celebrating that love and I know they feel the same way.
Hanukkah means something different to me, yet, it too is about a celebration of a miracle that occurred. It’s about a military victory that still affects us all.
Some people think Hanukkah is “The Jewish Christmas.” Nope.
Hanukkah marks the Maccabees' long-ago defeat of the larger-than-life Greek-Syrian army that had invaded Israel. The Maccabees were just a small group of Jews led by Mattathias Maccabee and his five sons, including Judah Maccabee. They organized themselves into a guerrilla army and, with God's help, proved stronger than their powerful enemy.
Following the Maccabees' victory, the Jews rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and, once again, were able to worship freely.
I once knew a Christian pastor who said he thinks that Hanukkah is really a critical holiday for Christians, too. “Why?” I asked — I knew about the reference in John chapter 10, but nothing more. He said that if the Jewish Maccabees had not risen up against their oppressors, then secularism and paganism would have controlled the Jewish people. And if it would have controlled the Jewish people, Jesus would not have been able to be born as a Jew, to live a Jewish life, to see the Temple, and have the Bible. Judaism would have been wiped out.
He's right. Hanukkah is an important holiday.
There is an attempt in every generation to rid the world of the Jewish people. Then there are those who want to accommodate, negotiate and be flexible. Still there are those who say they can do that sometimes, but there are times when you must draw a line in the sand.
When they try to take away my faith I cannot accommodate, I cannot adjust.
I cannot, I will not- compromise.
The Maccabees drew that line in the sand, and they triumphed. If not for their triumph, Judaism would have been gotten rid of by those authorities, and Jesus the Jew would not have been around 165 years later.
Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday because we see in the Bible that anytime there was a dedication of the Temple, it was an eight-day celebration. So, when they regained the Temple and took out all the impurities and idols, they had a celebration that lasted for eight days. And this is more than just the celebration of victory in a physical battle. Zechariah 4:6 says, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty." This became an important verse for Hanukkah, and is in fact written on the menorah in Jerusalem that stands across from the Knesset, Israel's parliament. It serves to remind us not just of the military victory, but of the ultimate triumph of God and the spiritual victory of the Jews over their oppressors.
Although Hanukkah celebrates a military victory, its major symbol — the Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah — reminds us of the miracle of the oil. As the Jews purified the Holy Temple, they found only one flask of the oil for the eternal lamp — enough to keep it burning for just one day. But a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted eight days and nights until more oil could be brought from afar.
That miracle explains why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days and also why Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights.
The Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights and an additional candle that’s used to light the others, called the Servant Candle. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second night, until all eight candles are lit on the eighth night.
Hanukkah is a time to celebrate with family and friends, to eat yummy holiday treats, to give gifts (especially to children) and to play fun games such as the dreidel game.
For me, it’s a time of re-dedication to God, a time to celebrate for eight nights all of the miracles he has done in my life and to thank Him for the gift of life, love, family and friends.
The Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication is mentioned John 10: 22-23 records, "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade." (NIV) As a Jew, Jesus most certainly would have participated in the Feast of Dedication.
The same courageous spirit of the Maccabees who remained faithful to God during intense persecution was passed on to Jesus' disciples who would all face severe trials because of their faithfulness to Yeshua HaMashiach . (Jesus, the Messiah) And like the miracle of God's presence expressed through the eternal flame of God burning for the Maccabees, Yeshua became the incarnate, physical expression of God's presence, the Light of the World, who came to dwell among us and give us the eternal light of God's life.
This season, shine your own light. Shine your kindness, your love, and your truth. Not just for 8 days, but for every day.
Just shine, in that you’ll find your own victory.