Honoring Hanukkah

Posted On : Dec 08, 2017

This year Hanukkah will begin on the evening of Tuesday, December 12 and ends on the night of Wednesday, December 20. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication” and the Jewish holiday celebrates the re-dedication of the second temple in Israel. Hanukkah is also known as the “Festival of Lights” and written about in the “Books of the Maccabees.”
A common acceptance of the December holiday season is that Christmas is the holiday for Christians and the celebration of Hanukkah is for Jews. Rarely do Christians identify with Hanukkah since it’s not one of the biblical feasts of Israel recorded in the Book of Leviticus. Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus observed Hanukkah might encourage Christians to explore the significance of the Jewish holiday in relation to our faith.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to state that without Hanukkah, Christmas may have occurred in quite a different fashion. Hanukkah, in some form, paved the way for the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ. For this reason, Christians might desire to not only wish our Jewish neighbors a Happy Hanukkah but also honor the significance of the celebration ourselves!
Antiochus IV Epiphanes as king of the Seleucid Empire ruled over the Jews from 175 to 164 B.C.  As the territories of Greece were Hellenized, the survival of the Jewish religion became in grave danger, and historians depict Antiochus as being fixated on destroying the Jewish faith and ultimately their posterity.
Antiochus brutally murdered thousands of Jews in Jerusalem. All Jewish services, religious sacrifices, Sabbath and feast day observances were banned.  The Hebrew manuscripts were ruined, the Temple was committed to Zeus, and Jews were forced to partake in pagan customs. The final strike was the sacrifice of a pig on the holy place of the Temple, to desecrate, attempting to destroy every hint of the Jewish religion. The Maccabean family, of Aaronic priesthood lineage, responded by leading a rebellion against Antiochus and experienced several miraculous victories over the ruthless Greek armies until the Temple was finally purified and restored for services.
The faithfulness and the steadfast love of God to His people were on full display once again. A courageous group of Jewish zealots defeated the fierce Greek armies and indeed the miracle-working power of Almighty God triumphed. The story continues alleging that when the Jews rededicated their Temple, there was only enough oil to light the menorah and keep it burning for one day. However, the oil miraculously burned for eight days! The account of the miracle oil and menorah lights is why Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah for eight days.
In chapter 10 of John’s Gospel Jesus entered the Temple during the “Feast of Dedication;” having already declared Himself as being the “Light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus would have known the story of Hanukkah and that the Temple He stood in wouldn’t have been in operation without the Maccabees victory over their Greek enemies. Today let’s remember the faithfulness of God to the Jews by honoring Hanukkah. Let’s also celebrate the faithfulness of God in bringing our Jewish friends home for the holidays. Let’s honor God’s love for the Jewish people and to us by blessing them with our spiritual prayers and financial gifts to make Aliyah this December, a special time of giving to spread God’s love. 
Steven Harper
Communications Specialist
Operation Exodus USA