December is the month of the lights. Lighted up ornaments at doors, handrails, trees, bushes. The string lights and all the outdoor decorations make the neighborhoods warm. The only biblical reference for the season is not Christmas. We read on John 10:22-3 “now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s porch”.
By saying “Feast of Dedication”, the Scripture is referring to Hannukah, the Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Though not among the prescribed seven feasts dating back to the time of Moses, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival that Jesus Himself celebrated. This year 2019 Hannukah is celebrated between 22nd and 30th of December.
Let us travel back in time. Think about the period 165 years before Yeshua (Jesus). At the time, a Syrian King named Antiochus invaded Israel and demanded the people to abandon the God of Israel and His ways. His plan was to impose Greek customs, including idolatry, on the people. It meant forbidding the practice of the Jewish religion, including circumcision. To ensure that no one could worship the God of Israel, Antiochus defiled the Temple in Jerusalem placing idols in the house of the Lord and sacrificed a pig upon the holy altar. He does take the title “Epiphanes”, which means “G’d manifested” and demanded to be worshiped.
It was a terribly dark period in Israel’s history, but God raised up a small band of heroes led by a kohanim (priests) family known as the Maccabees (Maccabee means “hammer”). Judah Maccabee, a priest (Kohen) himself, led a successful revolt against Antiochus, driving the Syrians out of Israel!
The Feast of Hanukkah commemorates the victory God gave the Jewish people over Antiochus and his mighty army. We call the holiday Hanukkah (dedication) because the high point of the victory was rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem.
Many legends surround this historic event, but the most famous is the “miracle of the oil.” It is said that when the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem they immediately set out to rededicate the Temple. But they faced a pressing problem; they needed consecrated oil to rekindle the sacred candelabra. They found only enough for one day (the Greeks had polluted all the rest) and it would take a full eight days to procure enough oil for Temple use.
A traditional saying arose from the Hanukkah story: “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.” The great miracle was that the oil, enough for only one day, continued to burn for eight whole days, enough time to make and sanctify new oil.
A traditional saying arose from this Hanukkah story: “nes gadol haya sham,” which means, “a great miracle happened there.” The great miracle was that the oil, enough for only one day, continued to burn for eight whole days, enough time to make and sanctify new oil. According to this legend, this is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights and why the Hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) is lit for eight nights as well. It’s a good story, but it isn’t mentioned in the earlier accounts of the Maccabean revolt, such as 2nd Maccabees. The legend of the oil isn’t mentioned until much later, in the Talmud. Maybe a day’s worth of oil supernaturally burned for eight days and maybe it did not.
In any case, the miracle of Hanukkah is God’s preserving power and his faithfulness. He vowed to preserve and sustain their descendants forever. That was His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
No wonder Satan has attempted to annihilate the Jews throughout history! Antiochus was one of Satan’s agents in his diabolical scheme to destroy the Jews and so make God a liar! In fact, the prophet Daniel predicted the wicked deeds of Antiochus (Daniel 8–11) and even depicted him as a type (foreshadow) of the antiChrist, the beast of Revelation 13.
The rededication of the Temple was a reminder of God’s power to keep His promises and preserve His people Israel. But One greater than the Temple stood on Solomon’s porch that day. And He made an astounding claim. “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Remember, that occurred at Hanukkah. Imagine what went through some minds, seeing Yeshua (Jesus) claiming deity. The reaction was predictable. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (v.31). If Yeshua wasn’t the one who He claimed to be, they would have been absolutely right to do so. However, when the Jewish leaders wrongly rejected Jesus’ claims that day, they missed the miracle of Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
In my opinion, Christians should celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. The roots of our faith in Jesus (Yeshua) are all Jewish. Jesus was a Jew, a Rabbi and celebrated His culture. So, if He celebrated the feast of dedication so should we. It points to the fact that Jesus has the power to preserve those who come to Him. In Him, God has proven His faithfulness to Israel and to all the world.