Why don’t Christians celebrate Hanukkah?  I think they should.  Here’s why.

During the 400 “Silent Years” between the Old Testament and the New Testament, God did not send a prophet to speak to Israel, but that doesn’t mean He was absent.

In the middle of the second century BC, the land was ruled by the Seleucid Empire, established in Syria by one of Alexander the Great’s generals.  In 167 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes heard that Menelaus, whom he had appointed high priest in Jerusalem, had been deposed by a conservative faction.  In response, he sacked Jerusalem, killed many inhabitants, restored Menelaus to power, and abolished Jewish religious rites and traditions.  The temple was dedicated to the greek god Zeus and the altar defiled by impermissible pig sacrifices to idols.

In addition, Jews were required to make sacrifices to Zeus as the supreme god.  This policy triggered the Maccabean revolt and the Syrians were driven out after several years of warfare.  When Jerusalem returned to Jewish control, Judas Maccabeus rebuilt the altar and rededicated the temple.  The purification rites lasted eight days, but the priests found only enough holy oil to burn in the Temple menorah/candelabra for one day.  Miraculously this oil burned for the full eight days.

In commemoration of this event, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah in Hebrew, also known as the Festival of Lights) was established.   This eight-day celebration uses a special menorah with nine candles:  eight for the days of purification and the ninth to light the others.

Hanukkah is rich with meaning for followers of Jesus.

First, the religious Jews obeyed God.  The Jewish freedom fighters were not politically correct but took action when ordered to worship other gods.  Sometimes Christians are also required to take a stand for religious freedom.  As Peter declared before the Sanhedrin, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20.

Second, God miraculously provided the oil needed for the consecration of temple.  Although it had been defiled, God cleansed it and set it apart for holiness as His dwelling place during those times.  God also cleanses us when we trust in Jesus.  He removes our sins and gives us His holiness.  We become God’s dwelling place, and He can miraculously provide for our needs as well.

Third, Jesus attended the Feast.  Although Hanukkah was not initiated in the Old Testament, He remembered the miracle celebrated in the Festival of Lights.  And He used the occasion to clearly claim to be the Messiah –

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” (John 10:22-26 NIV)

Jesus also claimed to be the Light of the World.  In the light of the menorah candles, I see the hope of Christ, God’s provision for our sins and the cleansing of our defilement.  He is the Light shining in a dark world, and He tells us to be lights to those around us.  Maybe if we celebrate Hanukkah, our friends and neighbors will ask why Christians would celebrate a Jewish holiday, which will give us a great opportunity to tell them about The Light of the World.

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.” (John 8:12 NIV)

“Do you think Christians should celebrate Hannukah?  What parts of the celebration could we incorporate into Advent?

Here are some suggested links to find ways to celebrate.




4 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays – Light of the World

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