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Hanukah this year, 2017 will start on Wednesday, the 13th of December and will continue for 8 days until Wednesday, the 20th of December, slightly before Christmas this year. A common misunderstanding is that Christmas is for Christians and Hanukah is for Jews. It is no exaggeration to say that if Hanukah had not existed, neither would Christmas have existed, and Hanukah actually prepared the way for Jesus, so why no celebrate Hanukah instead, of if you are one for tradition, celebrate both.
The origin of Hanukah started in the inter-testamental period, when Antiochus IV became ruler of the Greek Empire, rather like Adolph Hitler, he became fixated with persecuting the Jews. He killed the Jewish High Priest and slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem, and outlawed temple sacrifices and the observance of the Sabbath. He also re-dedicated the temple to the god Zeus and destroyed every Jewish religious scroll he could find; forcing the Jews to join in heathen rites. In the final insult to God, Antiochus IV had a pig slaughtered on the sacrificial altar of the Temple, so desecrating it.
The Maccabeans (of the priest line from Aaron) led a revolt against Antiochus IV and God led them to victory over the evil king, winning battle after battle against the vastly superior forced of the Greeks was nothing other than a miracle. The temple was purified and its function was returned to the purpose it was built for, and the temple was re-dedicated to our God, which is what the word ‘Hanukah’ means, ‘to dedicate’. It is God’s faithfulness to His people, (now us) that this feast is about, and is again a reminder to us of the things God has done for us.
When the Jews re-entered Jerusalem they found that there was only enough of the consecrated oil left in the temple to keep the Menorah burning for a single day. However God saw to it that another miracle happened here, and as a sign that God was with His people, that oil lasted for eight days, until more oil could be brought from Galilee, which would take eight days. This event is not found in the Bible, so is therefore a legend, but we know that the original Hanukah happened and lasted eight days and was called the ‘Festival of Lights’. Amazingly the Maccabean revolt was prophesied by Daniel, in chapter eight of the Book of Daniel, two-hundred and fifty prior to the event, and archaeology supports the event. Amazingly this event takes place on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislef in 167 BC, which can be transposed in the Gregorian calendar as December 25th. This date may have been chosen as the date for Christmas because of its significance in Hanukah.
So why should we, as Christians, celebrate Hanukah? Firstly, Jesus celebrated it, He visited the temple during the Feast of Dedication [John 10:22-23], if Jesus observed the feast should we not also? It is a fact that modern day Christians should remember God’s faithfulness to us. Jesus prophesied that many people (gentiles) from the east and west would come to the table of Abraham [Matthew 8:11], as Christians we are also the descendants of Abraham. A part of that faithfulness is that God sent His only Son, Jesus to save us once more, Hanukah reminds us of how faithful God is to His promises. Just as it was no accident that Jesus’ sacrifice was made on Passover, it is no accident that the Christmas story actually started in the temple with an angel announcing to the priest Zechariah that his wife would give birth to John the Baptist. Neither is it a coincidence that the Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit probably happened during Hanukah, the light of the world came into being during the Festival of Lights.