I am often asked why I celebrate Hanukkah if I am a follower of Jesus? My answer is simply this, because I am a follower of Jesus, I celebrate Hanukkah.
In John 10:22 , we read that Jesus himself went down to Jerusalem to celebrated the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade”. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. To me, this clearly says that Jesus not only did not do away with what was important to his people, but he added a greater dimension and purpose for them as Messiah.
Now for a brief history lesson for those who may not be familiar with Hanukkah. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BCE. This successful revolt was against the Syrian-Greek Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes following his murderous rampage against the Jewish people and his desecration of the Temple. According to the Talmud,the temple was purified and the wicks of the Menorah burned for the 8 days required for the purification ceremony, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one days light.
Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev and ends on the 2nd of Tevet in the Hebrew calendar. This year, 2011, Hanukkah will begin at sundown on December 20 and end at sundown on December 28. A special candelabra, called a Menorah, is used for Hanukkah. It holds 9 candles. The candle in the center, and usually a little higher than the others, is called the Shamash. This candle is used to light each of the others on the appropriate nights. As the candles are lit, a special blessing is said. Then the Menorah is placed in a prominent place so that it can be seen; usually a window.
Now to share with you how I came to celebrate Hanukkah as a follower of Jesus. Several years ago I began studying our roots, as believers in Jesus (Yeshua),in the Jewish faith. Consequently, I studied the Feast days during this period and learned that these are days that God set aside as appointed times to meet with Him….and that He never removed them. With the coming of Messiah they were made complete, but not removed. Now, Hanukkah is not one of those Feasts set aside by God, but it was important enough for Jesus to celebrate. And if it was important enough for Him to celebrate, did that also mean it was for me? Thus began my journey.
As I began to meditate on the meaning of Hanukkah, the commemoration of the dedication of the temple and the important symbolism of the candles in the Menorah, especially the Shamash, God began to speak to me through His word.
In John 8:10 we read this,
“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.”
And in Matthew 5:14, speaking to his followers, He said this,
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can not be hidden”
And in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 6, Paul wrote these words,
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17, Paul said,
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple”.
Some of you may already see where I am going with this, but for those who do not, let me show you what God revealed to me in these scriptures and in so many more in His Word.
First of all, the Shamash was revealed to me as representing Messiah Jesus (Yeshua).
The other 8 candles represented me,(and you)as a follower of Jesus. By the way in Biblical Numerology the #8 represents a new beginning, a new order of things, new creation, new birth and the resurrection to eternal life.
The first Hanukkah was a celebration of the dedication and cleansing of the Holy Temple back to God, after it had been desecrated by the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We, as followers of Jesus, are the Living Temple of God; God’s Spirit dwells within each of us.
And since God’s Spirit dwells within us, we are to be His light to the world dispelling darkness and celebrating the miracle of Messiah.
Taking all of this into account, I came to the conclusion that Hanukkah is for the Believer in Jesus and this is how I celebrate it.
On the first night of Hanukkah, I place a candle in the place for the Shamash and a candle in the far right spot on the Menorah. I light the Shamash.
I then light the candle on the far right using the Shamash. Then I pray a prayer something like this. “Father God I thank you for the gift of eternal life through your Son, my Savior, Yeshua. I thank you for the light that shines in my life because of Him. Yeshua, as I light this first candle I ask you to shine your light into my heart and reveal to me anything that is not of you and that prevents me from being all you want me to be. I ask that your light in me will shine so brightly that those who know me will come to know you. I repent of any thing that separates me from you and I thank you for newness of life in you. Amen “
I then place the Menorah in a window to symbolize the Light of Christ shining in my heart (temple) to a lost world.
The next night, I place fresh candles in the Shamash and the 2 spaces on the right. After lighting the Shamash I light the candles I placed on the right with the Shamash. I then pray a similar prayer or whatever Holy Spirit leads me to pray. Then I place the Menorah in the window and allow the candles to burn out.
Each night thereafter, I place fresh candles and add one until the 8 days of Hanukkah is complete.
At the end of these 8 days of rededication and repentance, I find that I am renewed, remember the meaning of the number 8, and am ready and able to fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 5:16, “……let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.
So, this is why I, a follower of Jesus, celebrated Hanukkah.