Most of us think Chanukah is merely a Jewish version of Christmas, instituted to appease Jewish children when all their friends are getting new bikes and new dolls. Right?
Wrong. Chanukah predates the birth of Messiah by over 160 years.
“Okay, Ro,” you ask, “but why should we should we care about Chanukah? Why should we celebrate it? What does Chanukah (or Hanukkah) have to do with us?”
Good questions. The answer is not as simple as ‘Yeshua celebrated it, so should we’; though when we read John 10, we realize he did. To explore the answers, let’s start with some history.
During Alexander’s time, “relations between Jews and Greeks were so good that an exchange of cultures took place. Each influenced the other. For the Jewish minority, however, what began as a small undertow of assimilation – such as giving children Greek names and speaking the Greek language – became a surprisingly powerful, high-speed rip current threatening to drag the caught-off-guard Jews out to the sea of complete assimilation.” (Jewish History)
These relations deteriorated after Alexander’s demise. The new regime banned Sabbath observance and circumcision, they established sacrificing to idols, and abolished Torah study.
So why is this important to us?
As an article on Gesher points out, “The re-consecrated temple stood but a paltry two hundred years.” Yet when we meditate on that, we realize it was long enough for Messiah to be born and accomplish all he did at the cleansed temple.
Without the Maccabean victory against the mighty Greek army, there would be no Messiah. There couldn’t be. He would not be circumcised; he would not be dedicated at the temple; he would not learn Torah. He would not teach, heal, or do or be any of the things that fulfilled the prophecies about him. There would be no Jewish people and so, no Jewish Messiah.
Please hear this–without the miracle of Chanukah there would be no light for the nations! So, the miracle for us is that God used the Maccabeans to prepare the way for Messiah to come and bring salvation first to His people, then through them to the nations.
Yes, we should celebrate. But not because we have replaced Israel. Rather, we come alongside her, grateful for her resilience as a people, blessing God for being her protector and provider from the beginning, through now, and into the Messianic Kingdom. After all, who is it we are waiting for, if not the King of the Jews?
When we celebrate Chanukah, we advertise God’s faithfulness to His people and His promises.
Unfortunately, in the U.S. Chanukah (like Christmas) has been commercialized to the point where we forget what we are celebrating. Chanukah is about celebrating a miracle of light, of spending time with our family, and passing on traditions from one generation to the next.
I must admit, I fell into this trap. Yet God tugged at my heart, whispering that I had to get back to the basics. It’s okay to decorate, to light up the night. After all, we are in the business of advertising, right?
But it’s not about bikes, or dolls, or the latest gadget from the internet. It’s about celebrating what God did through a small band of people, willing to give their all for His Kingdom. It’s about that light that shines into a dark world trying to overtake and annihilate God’s Kingdom.
So yes, my friends, let us celebrate and advertise the miracle of Chanukah–God is faithful to His people and His promises, as evidenced by the light that continues to shine for over two millennia. Let us celebrate the light of Israel that extends to us from the nations, through His son–the quintessential Israelite–Yeshua, King of the Jews.