Jesus and Hanukkah? Are you crazy? (Nope, just read on….)
First of all the basics.. Hanukkah (alternately spelled Chanukah) is the Jewish celebration which remembers the military victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. And that is what the word “Hanukkah” means – “Dedication”.
So to put it in more modern terms – Their armies took over and made life miserable for us. We eventually kicked them out…. they left us a mess (oy!) and we cleaned up and relit the Temple Menorah. Yeah!
That part is history. But here is where a bit of a legend comes in. The pure oil we found to relight the menorah was only enough to last one day. But miraculously it lasted for eight!
And again, to put it in modern terms….. You’re on a desert island, your cell phone (which you use as a flashlight at night) had only 4% power left on the battery, yet somehow it lasted for eight more nights until you are rescued!
Well – there is a lot more to Hanukkah than that, but you get the basic idea.
Today, Jewish families will light the Hanukiyah (a nine branch menorah) as a way to commemorate that event. Eight candles are lit (one per night) with a “Shamash” or “servant/worker” candle being the first one lit each night. It, in turn, will be used to light all the others.
Food is a big one. Since the miracle of Hanukkah centers on oil, foods fried in oil are a center piece. Potato pancakes (called latkas in Yiddish and livivot in Hebrew) and fried doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew) filled with jelly are traditional Hanukkah treats.
Children also play a game called “Drediel” where a top with four Hebrew letters is spun. The Hebrew letters on it are: nun, gimmel, hey and shin. These are an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there.”
The game is usually played for a pot of chocolate coins (called gelt), or peanuts, or maybe M&M’s, which are won or lost based on which letter the dreidel lands on when it is spun. There is even a classic song about the dreidel that children everywhere sing. The chorus goes like this, “Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.” Of course there are variations of this tune….
But when you get right down to it, Hanukkah focuses on one thing… Light.
Light is a good thing. After all, living is darkness is usually frowned upon wherever you go in the world.
As Messianic Jews, Jewish people who believe that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the Jewish Messiah, we love to celebrate Hanukkah as well.
We believe that the Messiah Himself is our “Light” and even the Jewish prophet Isaiah foretold this hundreds of years before the Messiah came to earth.
“And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself….. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles….” (Isaiah 49: 5 & 6 portions)
Notice this Servant has two jobs. 1) to bring the Jewish people back to God and 2) be a light to the Gentiles. That is a fancy way of saying his job is to tell Israel and the rest of the world about the God of Light!
Funny, that was exactly the goal of Jesus (Yeshua) living and teaching in Israel.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
And did you know that Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated Hanukkah? Yep. It was written down by one of His Jewish followers named Yochanan…..
“The Festival of Dedication [ie. Hanukkah] then took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s portico” (John 10:22-23).
So there you have it. Hanukkah in Jerusalem with the Messiah of Israel. This is what Messianic Jews believe happened.
Let us close asking you this… Does your soul need light?
Have you realized that apart from a relationship with God – through the Messiah of Israel, you are living in spiritual darkness.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you…” (Isaiah 59:2)
Are you willing to let Yeshua (Jesus) be the servant He was foretold to be by Isaiah and let Him bring light into your soul.
Just say this simple prayer from your heart and lips… “God, I am living apart from You. I am sorry for my sins. I turn from them. I need the light of the Messiah in my life. Yeshua (Jesus) I believe you are alive and I ask You to enter into my heart right now. I trust in You for light, both now and forever. Amen.”