Finding Christ in Chanukah

This girl posted this on Facebook, but I want to post it here.

Finding Christ In Chanukah

Chanukah…I bet it’s not foremost on your mind this time of year. In fact, I would wager most of you are having trouble remembering what Chanukah is exactly. I’ve heard a few good guesses all around campus, but my favorite is “The Jewish Christmas.” This is the most common misconception, especially seeing as Jesus was probably born in the spring around Passover, at the time of Caesar’s census. Allow me to explain to you what Chanukah means to a Messianic Jew.

In 164 BC, the Syrian king, Antiochus IV, decided to take over the land of Israel, and force the Jews to submit to him and to their whole slew of gods. His armies swept through the land, pillaging, murdering, and desecrating holy places everywhere. “He shed much blood, and spoke with great arrogance…even the land trembled for its inhabitants, and all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame.” 1 In order to spare their lives, many Jews submitted to the Syrians.

But there was man from Modein named Mattathias (his real name was probably Matityahu), and he had five sons: Yochanan, Shimon, Yehuda, Eleazar, and Yonatan. They recognized the cowardice of the people as blasphemy against Yahweh (God). But the last straw came when the king’s officers forced the people to sacrifice a pig to Zeus by offering a large bribe. When a Jew went up to the altar to accept this offer, Matityahu leapt up in what the text calls “righteous anger,” and killed him. With voice full of zeal he cried out, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” 2 They formed a band of guerilla fighters, with the head being Matityahu’s son Yehuda (Judah called Maccabee – meaning “hammer”) who ultimately defeated the Syrians, and was finally able to re-enter Jerusalem.

The first thing that had to be done was a cleansing and re-dedication of the temple, as it had been being used as a temple to Zeus. Desperately, the Maccabees went through the temple after cleansing it, seeking oil to light the lamp, and re-dedicate the Temple to Yahweh. They found just enough oil to last for one day, and realizing this was the best they could do (as the lamp was never supposed to die out), they lit the lampstand. To everyone’s shock, yet joyous approval, the oil burned for eight days! This is why Jews and Messianic Jews today light a menorah with eight candles, and recognize the miracle.

Translated, Chanukah literally means “renewal or re-dedication.” For a Jew, this means remembering the triumph of their people, and the dedication of the Temple. For a Messianic Jew, this holds new meaning with the knowledge that our Messiah has come, that His name is Yeshua (Jesus), and that at the Feast of Dedication we have the unique opportunity to dedicate ourselves to Him. Also, as it is called the Festival of Lights, we recognize Jesus as the Light of the World, and enjoy reflecting on this parallel as we thank the God of our ancestors for His gracious gift of salvation. We long to share it with our people who forever seem to prefer a blind walk in the dark.

A classmate posed a question to me early on Monday morning. She asked why Christians do not celebrate Jewish holidays…as it seemed like they should. I answered, saying that there really was no good reason not to. In Galatians 3:28-29, Paul addresses the idea of separation between believing Jews and Gentiles: “…all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

So this Chanukah, I’d like to extend a special holiday invitation to you. Embrace the traditions inspired by the roots of your faith. Light a menorah and place it on your window sill. Together let us think back upon the destruction of the house of God so many years ago, even now as it lies in ruins underneath pagan monuments and ancient deliberate desecration. Let us think upon the condition of our own hearts in this season, and attempt to cleanse and re-dedicate them to the God of our fathers. On this Feast of Dedication, let us dedicate ourselves to the one and only God, and the one and only Messiah.

1 Taken from 1 Maccabees 1:24 & 28.
2 Taken from 1 Maccabees 2:27.

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