Not too long ago a student said to me, “yea, I know what Hanukkah is, it’s the Jewish replacement for Christmas.” Well, no it is not.
So what, is Hanukkah? Is it found in Leviticus or one of those other Old Testament books? Actually, no. Hanukkah first began in what we call the Inter-Testimonial Period, the “400 years of silence.” This is the time between when God last spoke through the Prophet Malachi and when Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel.
A lot happened in this period of 400 years between the Testaments. The Persian Empire, along with many other nations was conquered and replaced by the Greeks.
After Alexander the Great died, one of his successors, Antiochus IV, unleashed a terrible persecution of the Jewish people. Antiochus, “the Mad Man,” called the people to bow down and worship him. There were several groups, including the Maccabees a Levitical family, who rebelled against Antiochus because they refused to worship anyone or thing other than the one true God.
The rebellion was successful and eventually, the Jews were able to re-enter the Temple. Unfortunately, the Temple had been desecrated. A pig, an unclean animal, had been sacrificed on the altar. Additionally, the eternal flame, that was always to be lit, had been put out. The Temple needed to be rededicated and the flame relit.
Tradition tells a legend that the Jews had only enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day before more oil could be made. However, miraculously, the oil actually lasted a full 8 days so that the temple could be fully rededicated and oil restocked.
Hanukkah is an excellent time to reflect on how God has preserved the Jewish people throughout the ages. God cares for those that are His.
In the midst of a dark and terrible time, God provided hope and light for His people.
In the Gospel of John chapter 1 verse 5, we find these words, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Interestingly enough, those words were not talking about the Menorah, but instead, of Jesus Messiah.
Jesus, “the true light, which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” (vs. 9) Once again, God had provided help, hope, and light to His people in the midst of dark and terrible times.
Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication. In John 10:24 we read “At the time the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple…”
We 21st-century believers cannot forget that Jesus was entirely Jewish. He was actually, the most Jewish Jew ever! He kept the Law perfectly, something no one else was or will ever be able to do. He continually quoted the Torah (the Old Testament) and He celebrated Jewish festivals and feasts.
It is fitting that the Light of the World celebrated the Festival of Lights.
One of the most incredible lessons that we can take from Hanukkah is that God provided for His people when they needed it most. One of the most incredible things that we can learn from Jesus’ life is that God provided a Savior when His people, and the world, needed Him most.
Jesus is still that Savior, Jesus is still that Messiah.
Today at sundown marks the start of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jesus’ message is so appropriate for the occasion. He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
God provided light and life to all who believe. Follow the Light.
Shalom, Happy Hanukkah everyone.