What Is The Deal With Hanukkah?

Nathan Smith Bible, Jewish Roots

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Hanukkah is celebrated around the world this week and unless you’re Jewish you likely know little to nothing about it.  Though most Christians pay zero attention to the Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah, you may be surprised to know the only time the holiday is mentioned in the Bible is in the NEW Testament book of John and Jesus is present! Perhaps you’ve wondered if Hanukkah is some sort of Jewish Christmas (it’s not) or, at very least, how do you spell it? (Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah? Better yet, how do you even say it?!) However, perhaps the two biggest questions for Christians concerning Hanukkah are ‘what is it?’ and ‘what does it have to do with me?’  Let’s find out…

Hanukkah, also known as ‘The Festival of Lights’ and ‘The Feast of Dedication’ is a minor Jewish holiday but gets a lot of attention because of its proximity to the Christian Christmas holiday. Though gifts are often exchanged and parties are thrown, the holiday actually has nothing to do with Christmas or gifts or anything else; it has to do with the purification and dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, and it just so happens to often fall within the month of December on the Gregorian Calendar. ‘Hanukkah’ is the Hebrew word for ‘Dedication’ and is only mentioned in the Bible once in passing (John 10:22-42). Outside of the Bible the story is recorded in the Apocryphal book of Maccabees and many other sources. The history of the holiday is important in understanding why I believe Christians should celebrate the holiday alongside our Jewish friends. (Click Here to Read My Post ‘What’s The Big Deal About Israel?’)

A Little Background

Here is the short version: In the year 162 BCE the Greco-Roman king of Syria (Antiochus Epiphanes) captured Jerusalem, forced the Jewish community to forsake their God-given traditions in order to cause them to assimilate more among the Greco-Roman culture of the day. In a rage he ransacked and plundered the Holy Temple and defiled it with a sacrifice to Zeus using pig’s blood on the altar of the Lord (among many other horrible and blasphemous things). Yes, this actually happened in history. A Jewish priest and his 5 sons (the Maccabees) led a revolt against the Roman ruler and against all odds, they won. After following the Biblical guidelines of purifying the temple they lit the menorah lights, rededicated the Temple to the Lord and celebrated its dedication for eight days in the same way Solomon celebrated the dedication of the Temple to the Lord when it was first built back in 2 Chronicles 7. This has been celebrated every year since on the anniversary of that dedication on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislav which corresponds to the end of November or early December. (Click Here To Read More Posts on Jewish Holidays)

Great story.  So what does that have to do with my Christian friends? The Bible tells us that after Jesus became our perfect sacrifice- and now lives as The Greater High Priest- our bodies became the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19). It is Jesus’ blood alone (shed for us when He was crucified on the cross) that can ‘purify us’ of our sin.  Not only that, we are reminded that we are to shine the ‘light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14-15).  We all know that our hearts and minds have been defiled by the world and that we all need to be purified and dedicated back to the Lord.  What better way this season can we let our Jewish brothers and sisters know that they do not stand alone in this world where they seem to have so many enemies and so few friends than to kindle the lights of Hanukkah with them?  By doing so we can declare that the ‘Temple’ can be rededicated and purified for all-time and the true ‘light of the world’ can dwell within us and shine through us by receiving the promised Jewish Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua), the Son of Abraham, the Son of David (Matthew 1:1).  In doing that, we are in no way desiring to take their holiday from them, rather, we are joining with them and sharing what the full meaning of this holiday is to be for all who would believe, both Jew and Gentile! (Click Here To Read My Post ‘Thanks For Nothing God’)

So, Christians should celebrate Hanukkah because…

  1.  Jesus was, is and will return a Jewish man!  (Matthew 1:1Revelation 5:5)
  2. We are called by God to stand with and pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters regardless of politics or personal opinions. (Romans 9-11)
  3. We know that now our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and need purification and rededication. ( I Corinthians 3 & 6 and the whole book of Hebrews!)
  4. The Jewish people have historically suffered beyond description, and they have few true friends in the world today.  We are called to stand with Yeshua’s brothers! (Matthew 25:37-40)

There are several more fascinating aspects to the story that apply to Christians that I’ll be posting each of the 8 days of Hanukkah on Instagram (follow me here), with a picture of our Hanukiah (the Hanukkah Menorah) lit with the corresponding candles.  Stay connected with me and let’s invite the Lord to help us shine brightly in this dark world until the day of His Coming! (Click Here To Watch My Message ‘Will Jesus Return During The Fall Feasts of Israel?’)

From the Bible

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” – John 10:22-24 NIV  

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 NIV

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40 NIV

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