Jesus and Hanukkah

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 LSB “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the Portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us openly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me. 26 “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish–ever; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one.”

The Feast of Dedication is also known as Hanukkah. 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 9:6 LSB “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, 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.

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