Hanukkah and Christmas Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Unless you are from a Jewish background, or you are a Christian who has studied your Jewish roots, you might not know very much about the Feast of the Dedication, John 10:22. You would be much more familiar with Christmas as it is, along with Easter, one of the two most celebrated holidays in Christendom.
But do these holidays have more in common than one might initially think? Like the holy days enumerated in the Older Testament, these holidays are associated with historical events. These events have a decidedly biblical connection as Christmas is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of the Incarnation, Is. 7:14, 9:6.
Christmas is a holy day in every sense of the word, aside from the fact that the Winter Solstice has been incorrectly adopted as the date for this momentous event. In this sense, it is a biblically-based holy day that celebrates what many would characterize as the most important event in human history, the Incarnation of our great God and Savior.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace. There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
When we see the short reference to the Feast of the Dedication (a.k.a. the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah) in the Gospel of John, it is at the end of the Lord’s three-year ministry and the messianic expectations in Israel are at a fever pitch. Jesus had just finished delivering His “I am the good Shepherd” sermon. He is that Shepherd immortalized by King David in Psalm 23. His sermon ends with a division among the people. Some were certain He was under the influence of demons, John 10:20, and a raving madman. This was a common line of attack leveled against Him, Mark 3:21; John 7:20. Others were convinced that no one could give sight to the blind unless God was with him, John 10:21.
A Historical Holiday
The Feast of the Dedication is a historical holiday linked to the defeat of the Antiochus Epithanes III, the King of Syria, in 165 BC. This king, whose title “Epithanes” means “god manifest” was a true antichrist. John reminds us that throughout history there have been many antichrists, I John 2:18. When Antiochus conquered Israel, he defiled the Temple by rededicating it to Zeus. He ordered his soldiers to force the Jews to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, something that was absolutely forbidden to the Jewish people. When he confronted a Jewish priest, Mattathias, he refused. When another villager stepped up to submit to this abomination, Mattathias became outraged. He slew the villager and the soldier in charge. His five sons and the other villagers killed the remaining soldiers and Mattathias and his family went into hiding.
The miracle of Hanukkah was that the one cruise of oil lasted for the eight days, so the Temple could be rededicated. A year into the rebellion, Mattathias died, leaving his son, Judah Maccabee, in charge of a growing army. Although outnumbered, the Maccabean army fought a guerilla war and eventually defeated the Syrian army. They found the Temple in disrepair. The Seven-Branched candle stand (menorah) that was always to remain burning was extinguished. There was only one cruise of oil found. It would last only one day. It would take the Levites eight days to produce more of this ceremonial oil. The miracle of Hanukkah was that the one cruise of oil lasted for the eight days, so the Temple could be rededicated.
The Hanukkah menorah is an eight-branched candle stand, one for each day the light remained lite. It has one candle that is slightly higher than the other eight. This is called the Shamus or Servant candle. It is this candle that lights the others. Our Messiah is the Servant prophesied by Isaiah, Is. 52:13-53:12. He is the light of the world, John 8:12, 9:5. He is a light to the Gentiles and a glory to His people Israel, Is. 42:6-7, 49:5-6.
This is a great time of the year to reflect upon the grace and mercy of God in our lives. The Incarnation brings to us a message of hope. New life in the One who came to redeem those who were in darkness, Is. 9:1-2. Join with us at CSI and celebrate the One who is the Light-giver. It is His incarnation that was celebrated 2,000 years ago. The angelic host proclaimed the coming of our great King and Savor, Luke 2:14.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, Luke 2:14.