Christmas would be impossible without Hanukkah. that is right, without Hanukkah there would be no Christmas. Hanukkah is known as the "Feast of Dedication" or "Festival of Lights." It is not among the holidays God commanded Israel to celebrate in the Old Testament. You will find it mentioned only once in the entire Bible" John 10:22-23. Jesus chose to be in the temple during this festival. The startling statement He made there is best understood against the background of the feast.
Hanukkah commemorates events that took place during the inter-testametal period, that gap between the Old and New testaments. The Jewish people were under foreign domination, ruled by the Syrian king Antiochus, who forced them to abandon their culture and religion. He made sure the Jewish people could not use the Temple to worship our God. He erected idols in the holy place - and worst of all, he sacrificed a pig on the alter.
The Jewish people were utterly defeated and demoralized - until a small band of guerrilla soldiers known as the Maccabees rekindled their hope. Within three years, these warriors miraculously recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple.
Note that Hanukkah - which means dedication - was not named for the brave warriors. The real victory was to worship the God of Israel once again. The temple was rededicated on the 25th day of the Jewish mount of Kislev, in the year 165 BC.
A common Hebrew phase connected with Hanukkah is "nes gadol haya sham," which means, "a great miracle happened there." Two miracles plus a common theme link Hanukkah and Christmas in a way I hope will heighten your appreciation of both.
The first miracle is the preservation of the Jewish people. Had Antiochus been successful, Israel would have lost her unique identity and God's precious promise would be unkept. If Antiochus had gotten his way, there would have been no recognizable Jewish culture for the Messiah to be born into. Without Hanukkah, there would have been no Christmas.
Whenever you are tempted to doubt God's saving power in your life, remember the miracle of His saving power as seen through Hanukkah, and how the small band of soldiers prevailed despite all odds. The way God preserved His people Israel reflects the way He continues keeping all of us, Jew and gentiles, who trust in Him today.
The second miracle associated with Hanukkah is the miracle of lights, a tradition first mentioned in the Talmud - written hundreds of years after the events. According to this tradition, the menorah - the seven branched candelabra that was to burn continually in the Temple - had been extinguished by Antiochus henchmen.
When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple they cleansed it and searched for fresh oil to rekindle the sacred flame. But they discovered only enough to last one day - and it would take eight full days to produce fresh oil. They use the oil they had to rekindle the flame - and miraculously, it lasted for eight whole days. So that is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.
The shamah or "servant candle is lite first, and in turn it lights all the other candles, beginning with one candle the first night. Each night, another candle is lit, until the eight night, when the entire Hanukkah is aglow.
How appropriate it was that Jesus chose to declare that "he was the light of the world, and they that follow Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." John 8:12, Jesus, like the servant candle on the Hanukkah, lights our way, and sends His Spirit to ignite us as well, so that we can shine His light in a dark world. We do not have enough "oil" to live a life dedicated to God, but Jesus has miraculously provided for us.
So the miracle of preservation made Christmas possible, and the miracle of the light reminds us Jesus, whose advent the prophets predicted would be, "light to the Gentiles" whose salvation would reach "to the ends of the earth" Isaiah 49:6.
Finally, the common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas is that of God with us - Immanuel, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14.
It was on this Festival that Jesus declared, "I and My Father are One." John 10:30.
It is only because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that he could sacrifice Himself as an atonement of our sin. He was born to die and rise victorious, born to light our way and make us to be lights, born to be adorned by Jews and gentiles who will bow and worship the one who is the hope of Hanukkah and the Christ of Christmas.
These two holidays share their ultimate, significance in the person of Y"shua (Jesus) the Messiah. He truly is our Rock of Ages.
Sincerely in Jesus Christ
Pastor Marie Terry, Coaldale