Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
Hanukkah commemorates events that took place between the Old and New Testaments. The Jewish people were under foreign domination by the Syrian king Antiochus, who forced them to abandon their culture and religion. He made sure the Jewish people could not use the Temple to worship God. He placed idols in the holy place and even sacrificed a pig on the altar.
The Jewish people were completely demoralized, until a small band of guerilla fighters, known as the Maccabees rekindled their hope. The Maccabees miraculously recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple. The real dedication after which the feast was named was not the dedication of the fighters, but the rededication of the Jewish people to be able to worship God again in the Temple in 165 B.C.
So, the first miracle of God is the preservation of the Jewish people through reclaiming and cleaning up the Temple for worship again. The second miracle associated with Hanukkah is the miracle of light. According to this tradition, the menorah-the seven-branched candelabra that was to burn continually in the Temple-had been extinguished by Antiochus’ men. When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple they cleansed it and searched for fresh oil to rekindle the sacred flame. But they found only enough to last one day. It would take 8 days to get more oil. They used what oil they had to rekindle the flame-and miraculously, it lasted for 8 whole days.
Hanukkah celebration lasts for 8 nights, symbolized by the nine-branched candelabra. The “servant” candle is lit first and it lights all the other candles, beginning with one candle on the first night. Each night, another candle is lit, until the eighth night, when the entire Hanukkiah lampstand is aglow.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus chose this area of the Temple to declare, “I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12)
Jesus, like the servant candle on the Hannukiah lampstand, lights our way, and sends his Spirit to ignite us as well, so that we can shine his light in a dark world. We do not have enough “oil” to live a life dedicated to God, but Jesus has miraculously provided for us.
NOTE the common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas is that God is with us-Immanuel. Hanukkah is all about the Jewish people being able to come into the presence of God again. Christmas is all about God sending His presence in Jesus to be with us forever.