You may have seen a menorah, heard a song about a dreidel, seen golden chocolate coins for sale, or have heard bits and pieces about the holiday of Hanukkah.
I grew up celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas since my mother and stepdad adhere to Reform Judaism. Most of what I remember is losing a lot of chocolate in dreidel and playing the game for hours.
Now, looking back on why this holiday is celebrated and what it is celebrating, I have a deep respect for it as a Christian and I think anyone can learn a few things from it:
1. Hanukkah in history.
The story can be found in 1 and 2 Maccabees, historical books that are not divinely inspired but still considered accurate Jewish records.
The scene set for the Hebrew people is a dark one – the Greeks have taken over Jerusalem, desecrated the temple and persecuted those who refuse to forsake their God for others. So, a revolt happens with Judah Maccabee at the helm who leads the people to independence in 165 BC and they are able to rededicate the temple of the Lord.
Every year, Jews still celebrate Hanukkah, or the Feast of Rededication, in celebration of God’s deliverance.
2. The servant candle.
Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. Legend says when the Maccabees rededicated the temple, they found only enough consecrated oil to last for a single day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, long enough for more oil to be consecrated.
There are eight days to Hanukkah and on every night a menorah is lit from left to right accompanied by blessings and then placed in a window. However, there is something interesting about lighting the menorah – there are nine candles for eight days. This is because the ninth candle, known as the “shammash” or servant candle, is used to light the other candles.
I see Jesus in the shammash candle.
A core virtue Jesus preached was humility, even to the point where he washed his disciples’ feet to show what he meant. Now, the job of the shammash candle is to light all of the other candles.
Doesn’t Jesus do that?
Humbling himself, he became a man sent to seek and save the lost. And he is the one who brings light into our lives and into our hearts.
3. Honoring sacrifice.
Through song, games, food, gifts, charity and lights, Jews celebrate this independence day. The principles of freedom, deliverance and remembering peoples’ sacrifice are present in Hanukkah every year.
The Jews were free to worship God again without facing the fear of death.
The Jews were delivered from the tyrant Antiochus who sacrificed pigs to Zeus in the temple and who tried to force the people to reject their faith (This happened on Dec. 25, which was originally celebrated as the sky god’s birthday).
Many Jews were martyred for what they believed in. When they would practice the sabbath or keep a kosher diet, they were killed if they were found out. Hanukkah is a time to remember these sacrifices too.
Can’t Christians also celebrate the fact that we can worship God freely and how he has delivered us into freedom from sin? Yes, I believe we can.
4. Looking forward in hope.
In 165 BC the Jews were looking ahead for the Messiah. And now, we look backward at the life of Jesus Christ as our Messiah and forward to the day he returns.
When Jesus came into the world and died for our sins, he established a kingdom of peace on earth – one that we can’t see with our eyes but we can feel in our hearts. And when he comes back, he will establish both a spiritual and physical kingdom of peace.
And on Christmas day, we celebrate the Messiah who was prophesied in hundreds of Old Testament passages and who would resurrect from the grave.
And today, let’s remember the light of Hanukkah because when the world seems to be at its darkest, God shows up.
And Jesus is the light, the miracle and the reason for our deliverance.
So happy (belated) Hanukkah! And merry Christmas!
In love and truth,
Authored by Melody Turner exclusively for Lifeword.org
(https://lifeword.org/blog/what-christians-can-learn-from-hanukkah/)This article is republished with permission from Lifeword.org. The text of this article cannot be republished, copied or reprinted in any form without written permission from Lifeword.org