Today is the beginning of the eight daylong festival known as Chanukkah. It is probably the best known of the Jewish holidays among the general populace but most people really do not know what it celebrates. Perhaps they know that it generally coincides with the Christmas season. Perhaps they know that it has something to do with a menorah. But most do not know about the history behind the holiday. So here is a quick history lesson.
The holiday of Chanukkah celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of Israel. It begins in the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered Syria, Egypt, and Israel, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions.
More than 100 years after Alexander, Antiochus IV (also known as Epiphanes) rose to power in the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic (non-Jewish) priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. One of the groups which opposed Antiochus was led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee (known as “The Hammer”).
This small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army. Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but the Maccabees succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. According to historical accounts, Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem in December 164 BC. The Holy Temple, the Jewish religious center, was in shambles, defiled and desecrated by foreign soldiers.
The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah (the multi-branched lampstand), they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought. From then on, Jews everywhere have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. For these reasons Chanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights or The Feast of Dedication.
It was during The Feast of Dedication, as recorded in John 10, that Jesus made one of the most audacious claims ever. In response to the question, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”, that Jesus boldly proclaimed Himself not just to be the long awaited Christ but to be one with the Father. As a result the Jews tried to stone Him for blasphemy.
So either He was blasphemous or He was not. Either He was indeed the Christ that the Jews had been waiting for or He was not. Either He was God in the flesh or He was not. Either He is The Light of the World or He is not. I have staked my life on the fact that He is – for some very good reasons which we can talk about as you grow up. But my prayer is that you will do the same and then every Chanukkah will be a reminder that a great Light shines in the darkness and brings salvation to those who embrace Him as Christ the Messiah.
Never ever forget that you are very loved!