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The Festival of Lights

December 15, 2019

A sterling silver Hanukkah menorah with 9 olive-oil based lights, Author Daniel Dimitrov (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Hanukkah or the Jewish “Festival of Lights” celebrates the re-dedication of the Second Temple, at the time of the Maccabean revolt.

After Antiochus IV issued his infamous order forbidding Jewish religious practice, a priest by the name of Mattathias the Hasmonean prompted a revolt against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic (Greek) influence on Jewish life.  This revolt lasted from 167-160 BC.

Following the Jewish victory, the Temple in Jerusalem was found ravaged:

There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned.  In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains.  They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins.  Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation…” (1 Macc. 4: 38-39).

Only a single jug of consecrated oil remained with which to purify the Temple.  Just sufficient to light the menorah for a day, the oil lasted miraculously for eight days by which time additional oil had been prepared.

All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.  So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings…and a thanksgiving offering” (1 Macc. 4: 55-56).

Hanukkah commemorates this miracle.  The Festival of Lights is a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  For Christians, however, it is more than a reminder God’s ability to preserve the nation of Israel.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt?  If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’ ” (John 10: 22-24).

The Jews confronted Christ in the Temple during Hanukkah, asking if He was the Messiah.  They wanted release from Roman domination, the same way their predecessors had wanted release from Seleucid domination.

Sadly, Christ’s response was not satisfactory to them:

I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me...I and My Father are one’ ” (John 10: 25, 30).

Christ was not promising release in a temporal sense.  He was promising something greater.  He was promising Salvation from sin and death [1].

That is the promise on which the Light of the World delivered.

[1]  Jews for Jesus, “Christ in the Feast of Hanukkah” by David Brickner, 12/1/98, https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-dec-1998/christ-in-the-feast-of-hanukkah/.

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From → Christian, Faith, Religion

5 Comments
  1. Imagine how different this world would be Anna if it understood and accepted this Light of the World. For over two thousand years (just think of that!) the enemy of our soul has been hard at work trying to hide this Light from the world in order to keep it enslaved in sin and death.

    Thanks be to God however for the victory that Christ won on the Cross! In Him, we have salvation and deliverance from the chains that once held us captive. I am so thankful that what I could never do, He did for me.

  2. I actually never explained Hanukkah to my son, and will be sharing this post with him. Wishing you a wonderful year-end, Anna.

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