As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s not forget about the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Each year these two celebrations fall very close to one another. Hanukkah 2019 will begin on the evening of Sunday, December 22, and ends on the evening of Monday, December 30.
Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, means “dedication.” It is also known as the “Festival of Lights.” It is celebrated with a lighting of the menorah, prayers, and special foods. Actually, the highlight of each night is the lighting of the candelabrum. As a follower of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), this should remind us that Jesus is the light of the world!
Why do Jews celebrate Hanukkah? Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the temple after its defilement under Antiochus. In the second century, the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian-Greeks. They attempted to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. A small, but faithful band of Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, defeated a stronger and larger Greek army and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. Tradition says that a miracle occurred when they lighted the seven-branched menorah in celebration. A one-day supply of oil lasted eight days.
There is a reference to Jesus walking in the temple in the winter at the Feast of Dedication.
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’” John 10:22–24 (NKJV).
We remember that Jesus came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). Let’s be sensitive and open to a great opportunity to share Jesus with the Jewish people. The above text shows us that Jews were expecting a Messiah. They did not believe Jesus was the One sent by God. They still don’t believe that He is the Messiah today.
We have been lighting the Advent candles leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It should be easy to connect the dots to Hanukkah and remember the Jewish people during the holidays. If you have a Jewish friend, look for a Hanukkah card at Hallmark. Send the card with a greeting and tell them you are praying for them. It might open a door for future witness.
If you are interested in learning more about the festival of Hanukkah, check out the following links:
If you are a “foodie” check out the recipes at the following sites:
But remember, a lot of Hanukkah food is fried, in memory of the miracle of the multiplying of oil. I guess if you rationalize your holiday eating habits, this is a great excuse for eating more fried food.
Pastor Gordon Small