Is it my imagination or do we just not hear as much “Happy Hanukkah” these days? And what’s the real story behind Hanukkah anyway? ♦
I remember as a kid how we used to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” everywhere we went. We’d often get reminded to also say “Happy Hanukkah” for our Jewish friends. These messages used to be plastered around every retail store, highway billboard, and holiday television commercial.
What a difference a lifetime makes.
Now one says “Merry Christmas” at the risk of offending someone, or worse, thinking you’re offending someone. What silliness the anti-Christian collective has wrought upon us.
But apart from that, is it my imagination or do we just not hear as much ‘Happy Hanukkah’ these days? And what’s the real story behind Hanukkah anyway?
You may be surprised how it’s very much tied to the Christmas story.
In 167 B.C. , Antiochus IV Epiphanes blasphemed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This region had been long-ruled by Greeks since the time of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 B.C. His kingdom was divided up by his generals and the Seleucid family, of which Antiochus IV descended, controlled the homeland of Israel. Antiochus IV was brutal and disrespectful of Jewish culture and religion. He sought to “Hellenize” the Jews (override their culture with Greek culture) while he robbed the Temple treasury, erected a statue of Zeus there and demanded worship and pig sacrifices to the pagan deity.
In a story of intrigue and heroism worthy of a movie, a father and his 5 sons (the Maccabees) begin a Jewish revolt against the evil ruler and ultimately gain control of the Temple and Jerusalem and restore order and tradition. One of the sons, Judas Maccabeus, emerged as a key leader, almost a Messiah-figure. His heroics ushered in the era of Messiah-watching among the Jews.
By the way, this story is in the Book of Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha, a handful of books not included in the Biblical canon as non-God inspired. The Maccabee story as a historical account was also separately validated by Josephus, renown contemporary first century historian.
Hanukkah: Re-dedication of the Temple (164 B.C.)
Hanukkah, sometimes called the Feast of Dedication or the Feast of Lights, is an eight-day celebration to commemorate the re-dedication of the Temple in 164 B.C. The celebration involves the lighting of candles each night on a nine-branch menorah, singing hymns, eating special food, and even exchanging gifts.
Whether Hanukkah celebrations are really in decline is open to debate. Traditions are waning as generations grow older. But ask your own Jewish friends about their own recognition of this important event in their faith.
Jesus, the Real Messiah
As explained in the previous post, Jesus was born into this world in the midst of an uncanny series of events and circumstances that cannot be denied. The entire Old Testament from Genesis 3:15 onward foreshadows a coming seed, a redeemer, a Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Reading the Bible without an eye on the symbolic and specific references to the Coming King is to misunderstand and miss the point.
Jesus was the real Messiah. The Maccabean Revolt was only part of Jewish history which predated the real revolution – the One who came and lived among us and conquered death and was resurrected. He gave men many clues and was revealed in the Scriptures.
Yet still they (we) were (are) confused:
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem (Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah!)…The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)
Yes, Hanukkah and the Christmas Story go hand in hand. One is but a glimpse of heroic action in a people’s history that is worthy of memorial. The other is the appearance of the culmination of the promise of Abraham, that people’s father, with the birth of the One that “would be a blessing to all the families and nations of the earth.” (Genesis 12)
Can you relate to both Hanukkah and Christmas?
Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father….And in that place many believed in Jesus.” – John 10:36-38, 42