As we enter the Christmas season, another significant celebration often takes place in parallel: Hanukkah. Hanukkah typically falls during Advent, with its dates in 2023 being Thursday, Dec 7th through Friday, Dec 15th. While many Christians may not be familiar with the origins of this festival, it holds valuable spiritual lessons and connections to our faith. Rabbi Jason Sobel says you cannot fully understand the gospels without fully understanding the Jewish Festivals and Feasts. That is because Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise of God we see in each celebration. Let’s explore the spiritual significance of Hanukkah and why Christians will find it deeply meaningful to learn about and even celebrate this holiday.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, has its origins in the second century B.C. during a tumultuous period in Jewish history. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, following a rebellion led by a group of Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees. Under the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sought to suppress Jewish religious practices and desecrated the temple, the Maccabees successfully reclaimed the temple, purified it, and restored its sacred purpose. The festival’s name, Hanukkah, is derived from the Hebrew word “hanukh,” meaning “dedication,” symbolizing the rededication of the temple and the enduring light that burned miraculously for eight days when there was only enough oil for one. Here are eight reasons I believe Christians should celebrate and learn about Hanukkah.
- A Celebration of Dedication
Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication, carries a profound message of dedication and recommitment to God. In a world filled with distractions and temptations, Christians can use this festival as a reminder to dedicate themselves anew to God’s service.
- Honoring God’s Preservation
The festival of Hanukkah commemorates a critical period in Jewish history when God preserved His people from persecution and desecration. This celebration reminds Christians of God’s faithfulness in preserving His chosen ones, reinforcing our trust in His protection.
- Recognizing the True Temple
During Hanukkah, we recall the Maccabean Revolt and the rededication of the Jewish Temple. This event echoes Jesus’ statement about His body being the true temple (John 2:19), emphasizing that Jesus is the ultimate source of purity and the means by which we can worship God.
- Light in the Darkness
Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, signifying the miraculous eight-day burning of the menorah’s oil. For Christians, this resonates with Jesus’ declaration in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” highlighting His role as the spiritual light that dispels darkness.
- Reflection on Miracles
The story of Hanukkah includes the miracle of the oil, which lasted eight days despite its limited supply. This reminds Christians of the miracles that Jesus performed, emphasizing His divine nature and His ability to provide for our needs, even in seemingly impossible circumstances.
- Jesus and Hanukkah
In the New Testament, we find a reference to Hanukkah in John 10:22-23. This passage highlights that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication, showing His connection to Jewish traditions. Understanding this connection can deepen our appreciation of Jesus’ cultural context and faith.
- Jesus as the True God
On Hanukkah, Jesus made a bold claim by asserting His unity with the Father, emphasizing His divinity. This momentous declaration reaffirms our faith in Jesus as the true God and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
- A Teaching Opportunity
While Christians are not obligated to celebrate Hanukkah, they can use it as a teaching opportunity to share the message of Jesus as the ultimate temple, the source of spiritual cleansing, and the light of the world. Hanukkah provides a meaningful backdrop for discussions about the Christian faith.
Hanukkah offers valuable spiritual insights and connections to our faith in Jesus. By learning about Hanukkah and its significance, Christians can deepen their understanding of Jesus’ role as the true temple, the light in the darkness, and the source of dedication and recommitment to God. As we celebrate the Christmas season, let us also reflect on the lessons Hanukkah can offer and appreciate the rich tapestry of our faith heritage.