Should Christians Celebrate Hanukah?
Romans 14:5,6 says: One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.
John 4: 23,24 says: 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
I present this hub for consideration in your own mind, and with the prayer that I am doing so in spirit and in truth.
Most Christian scholars don’t think Jesus was actually born on December 25. And yet, this is the time we spend focusing on the story of His Birth. And I think it’s entirely appropriate. Here's why.
So, I Wondered, What is Hanukah?
When I was a kid, Hanukah was “something the Jewish kids did while the Christian Kids do Christmas.” They had these cool candelabras and these tops, and got presents for eight days in a row.
As an adult, I became friends with a group of Christians who are called “Messianic Believers”. Some of these believers are ethnically Jewish, but in our community, most are not. Essentially, these people taught me the importance of the influence of Jewish culture and tradition on the writings of the New Testament. They celebrated Hanukah, and I’m sure some of the things they said to me have influenced this hub, but I’m not an active member of that community and their views are not necessarily reflected in this hub.
I was on extended assignment far from home one year and became friends with an observant Jewish man. One of the most profound Christian experiences I’ve had was a Passover meal with his family.
So that made me think ... what about Hanukah , this “festival of lights”?
As I see the season developing around me, and I see the lights on the trees and lights on houses and lights on just about everything, I couldn’t help but wonder about this “Festival of Lights”.
The Hanukah Story
In 180 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek King began what might best be described as a holocaust. He massacred Jewish people, he forbade their religious practices and looted the Temple. In 167 BC he erected an altar to Zeus in the Temple of the Lord and sacrificed pigs there.
Judah Maccabe (Judah The Hammer) became the leader of a military rebellion against Antiochus. In 165 BC the Jewish revolt against Antiochus was successful.
After Judah Maccabe drove the occupiers from the Temple, they went in to take down the pagan statues and restore the Temple. During this time, they discovered that most of the ritual items had been polluted by the pagans. They needed ritually purified olive oil to light a Menorah to rededicate the Temple.
They found only enough oil for a one day. They lit this, and began sanctifying new oil. Miraculously, that small amount of oil burned until the new oil could be pressed, eight days. This is why Jews light a candle each night of the festival.
Christians, Christmas and Hanukah
So what has this to do with Christians and specifically is it really spiritually related to Christmas?
First of all, I want to say to my Jewish friends, that I believe that Christianity is a logical extension of Judaism and that I have utmost respect for what I consider our shared history.
I have three different reasons that perhaps Christians should consider the celebration of Hanukah …
First of all Jesus was Jewish and there is no doubt whatsoever than during this season, He celebrated Hanukah, for that reason alone, as “imitators of Christ’ it may be appropriate for some Christians to celebrate Hanukah.
But spiritually, I have another thought or two.
According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, the Temple, is symbolic or our own body. Jesus is the light of the world (John 12:46). Evil kings who have dominated the Jews from Pharaoh to Nebuchadnezzar have been considered symbols of satan in many Christian traditions. Perhaps Antiochus is symbolic of satan as well.
Allow me to suggest that the events of 167 BC may be considered prophetic symbols of the coming of Jesus. The Temple (our bodies) polluted by Antiochus (satan) is to be resanctified and rededicated to God. God miraculously provided the Light (Jesus) to complete this rededication. Call it spiritual speculation.
My favorite reason, though, for celebrating Hanukah, at least in my heart, is a little less obscure. The Temple is a major scene for many of the major events of the coming of Christ. In Luke 1, the announcement birth of Jesus is preceded by the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias. Where did this occur?
In the Temple.
When the baby Jesus (our primary symbol of Christmas) is to be officially declared by a prophet Simeon to be Messiah, and prophesied Mary’s pain (Luke 2:25-24), where did this occur?
In the Temple.
When the aged prophetess Anna declared the baby Jesus to be the redeemer of Israel, where did this occur? (Luke 2:36-38)
In the Temple.
When the Child Jesus first revealed his knowledge and Wisdom of His Father, where did this occur? (Luke 2:41-49)
In the Temple.
The Temple is an important part of the Christmas story, that is the presentation of Jesus as a Child to the world. The manger was the place of His birth. The Temple was the place of His presentation.
God empowered Judah Maccabe to cleanse and rededicated the Temple so it would be ready for the presentation of His Infant Son.
Maybe, just maybe, it pleases God to see the celebration of the cleansing of the Temple occur so closely to the celebration of the Birth of His Son.