Seeing the light: How Christ is connected with Hanukkah
By Murray Tilles
Light of the Messiah Ministries
Most Christians are unaware of the significance of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival that is so intimately connected with Christmas in many peoples’ minds. In fact, many think that Hanukkah is the Jewish version of Christmas. But that is far from the truth. There is a connection between Hanukkah and Christmas, but it is not one that most would know. If it weren’t for Hanukkah, there wouldn’t be a Christmas! Let me explain.
The events surrounding Hanukkah (which literally means “dedication” in Hebrew) are not found in the Bible, but in the Book of Maccabees, a book of the Apocrypha. The events happened, and were written about, between the Old and New Testaments. It is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is November-December on the Gregorian calendar).
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish people’s victory over the Syrians in 165 B.C. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals, ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods, and wanted to
annihilate the Jewish community.
They refused to worship false gods, fought the Syrians, and by God’s grace, won the victory.
A legend is told. After the battle, Judah Maccabee, the Israelite leader, and his soldiers went to the holy Temple to rededicate it to the Lord. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to relight the menorah, the candelabra, in the Temple. After looking everywhere for oil, they found a small flask containing only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a Hanukkah candelabra every night — the eight-day miracle of lights.
Against all odds the Jewish people were saved and continued as a nation despite attempted annihilation at the hands of the Syrians. But, God made a promise and He kept it. He promised to always protect the Jewish people against annihilation. (Jer. 31: 35-36)
God protected the Jewish people. One hundred and sixty five years later our Savior, Messiah Jesus, was born of a Jewish mother and father, in a Jewish land. Satan knew that if he could get rid of the Jewish people 165 years before Jesus that he would prevent The Birth. He tried. But God is always victorious! He protected the lineage. He kept His promise. Because of Hanukkah, we all can celebrate!
Hanukkah is called the Festival of Dedication, the Festival of Lights, and the Festival of Miracles.
Hanukkah is the Festival of Dedication
We remember and celebrate the fact that God protected the Jewish people and allowed them to retake the holy Temple for his service and worship. Against all odds the Maccabees won a victory and rededicated the Temple to the Lord.
Jesus walked in that very Temple. There He astounded the rabbis after wandering away from his parents at the age of 12. He overturned the tables in that same Temple. It was the Temple He knew and loved. He was there during the Festival of Dedication as mentioned in the New Testament book of John, in Chapter 10 vs. 22. It was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), and Jesus was in that Temple. In Solomon’s colonnade. At Hanukkah, Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.”
During this season we celebrate the One Who became our spiritual Temple when He was born in Bethlehem. As Christians we meet God “in Him.”
Hanukkah is the Festival of Miracles
God is a God of the miraculous. During Hanukkah, the Jewish people celebrate the miracle of the victory of the Maccabees over their Syrian oppressors. The fact that the Jewish people have endured as a people against all odds is a miracle of God. The existence of the Jewish people is a testimony to the faithfulness of God and to His miraculous protection. To this day the Jewish people and Israel are targeted for destruction, yet they survive.
Though Jesus did many miracles for the Jewish people, most did not believe in Him. (John 12:37) At the same time, His miracles gave witness to His truth. With Hanukkah in mind, Jesus made the connection between Himself, the Miracle Worker, and the Festival of Miracles. He is the greatest Miracle of all.
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights
During Hanukkah the Jewish people celebrate the miracle of the oil and the light. Jesus knew of the miracle and celebrated Hanukkah himself. In His day, during this time of year, there were lights in the Temple area. For several weeks during the Festival of Tabernacle and the Festival of Lights, the Temple was illuminated. Candelabras were lit throughout the city of Jerusalem celebrating God’s provision and protection. It was during this very season that Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the World.” (John 8:12)
He knew the significance of the rededication, of the miracles, and of the lights. And He knew to tell His Jewish people that He was and is the fulfillment of the Festival of Lights.
It is good to celebrate God’s protection of the lineage through which Jesus was born. As you celebrate Christmas this year, please remember my people. Remember that you are celebrating the birthday of a Jewish savior whose lineage was miraculously protected by God. And remember that my Jewish people need to hear the message of that baby…of Jesus…the Light of the World.
For more about Tilles, his speaking engagements, and to invite him to speak to your church, visit www.lightofmessiah.org.