Today we are continuing to celebrate Hanukkah. This year, Hanukkah last from December 20 until December 28th. Many people recognize this as the “Festival of Lights” But it is so much more than that. Hanukkah is less about light and oil than it is about dedication and faith.
You see, about 165 BC the Syrian King who ruled over Israel, King Antiochus IV appointed a Hellenistic High Priest over Israel. He prohibited the study of Torah, and he commanded the sacrifice of swine upon the holy altar. This was about as much desecration as the temple had ever seen.
This caused the Hasmoneans, led by Jewish High Preist Mattityahu and his Son Judah Macabee (Which means Hammer. I.e the Hebrew Hammer) to rebel. They sucessfully reclaimed Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord. Hanukkah is the celebration of the rededication of the temple after it was reclaimed by the Jewish people.
The story of the Oil that we often share has several different tellings, but the basic premise is that when they rededicated the temple, they only had enough oil to last in the Temple Menorah for one day. It takes eight days to prepare oil for the temple menorah. The miracle occured when the oil lasted for all eight days until the fresh oil could be prepared.
The Hanukkah Menorah is special and is different from the traditional temple menorah. The Temple menorah has Seven candles, while the Hanukkah menorah has Nine. Eight candles for the eight days, and One for the Lord. According to Hanukkah, it is a time of celebration, there is to be no fasting or mourning, because we are to rejoice of the freedom and liberation of the Temple and the Jewish People.
It is customary to light the center candle and then each night you light one candle from the right to the left, each day you have the corresponding number of candles lit. It is also proper that the Hanukkah Menorah be displayed where it can be seen from outside, and the candles should face so that those outside see them from right to left.
Now the question for us as Christians is how to celebrate Hanukkah. What is the point for people who may not have any actual Jewish Blood. I would remind you that you are grafted into the family of God, and thus the Jewish people are now your brothers and sisters. While it is not required to celebrate, it is always good to rejoice with your brothers when they rejoice, and the mourn with them when they mourn.
The story of the Oil lasting is great, and many Jewish families eat oily foods to celebrate the miracle of the oil, however the purpose of Hanukkah is to celebrate the faith of the Hasmoneans who would not bow to any God but YHWH. Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, the Hasmoneans were willing to die if that was the only way to avoid serving another God.
During this season of Hanukkah we should rejoice in our freedom to be servants of Messiah Yeshua. To live and breathe as the family of YHWH. We should take this time to rededicate ourselves to the Lord, much as the Hasmonean Jews rededicated the Temple. Remember that you are the temple of the Lord. This is a season of Rejoicing and celebrating and being merry because we are free.
There are those around the world who aren’t so blessed as we are, and cannot celebrate the Lord freely and must hide their faith or lose their life. Since we are free to worship in the open we ought to worship twice as joyfully on their behalf. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me.