The Jewish people have been persecuted and wronged since God first called Abraham. From Pharoah demanding that all Hebrew boys be killed and God providentially saving Moses to Esther saving her people and the holiday of Purim being instituted, God has always watched over His people.
Hanukkah has a similar storyline. Like many before him, Antiochus III hated the Jews because he hated their God. He hated their worship, customs, and everything about God’s chosen people. You can read the story in 1 Maccabees, chapters one through four. In summary, many Jews began embracing a Greek way of life, and eventually, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. Judah Maccabee and his men in service to God went to battle and only by a miracle took back the city and rededicated the Temple. Unfortunately, there was only enough oil to last one day, but the day’s worth of oil lasted eight days, enough to make and purify more oil.
So, what does all of this have to do with Jesus? to put it bluntly, if there had been no Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas. Like Moses, Jesus was going to be killed as an infant, but God kept His promised deliverer safe. The enemy has always been trying to destroy the Jews. Even after the time of Jesus, persecution against the Jews and hatred of them continued. Most notably in the person of Hitler.
Hanukkah is a celebration of God’s protection and salvation. Hanukkah is a celebration of light, something Jesus Himself participated in.
John 10:22-30 CJB “Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, 23 and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade. 24 So the Judeans surrounded him and said to him, “How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly!” 25 Yeshua answered them, “I have already told you, and you don’t trust me. The works I do in my Father’s name testify on my behalf, 26 but the reason you don’t trust is that you are not included among my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, 28 and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands. 29 My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them from the Father’s hands. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for dedication. Jesus took the opportunity in the celebration to point to Himself as Israel’s ultimate deliverer. In the larger context of chapter ten, Jesus spoke of Himself as the shepherd and the door of the sheepfold. He revealed that He had sheep outside this fold, meaning Jews and Gentiles would be shepherded under Him.
As Christians, we can celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Hanukkah because it celebrates God’s faithfulness to Israel and His promise to send a Savior. We celebrate Christmas because that Savior entered the world.
Isaiah 9:5(6) CJB “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name
Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],
May these eight days of Hanukkah and the celebration of Christmas be filled with the light of our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.