During the darkest time of the year, the focus of both Hanukkah and Christmas is the joyful reminder of the light. The light and joy that fill these holidays also brings special times of remembering: of deliverances and gifts… of Yeshua our Deliverer, God the Father, Holy Spirit… of miracles and love… and even of cherished family and friends.
Join us as we explore the joys and remembrances of these two interconnected holidays and discover how we can spread the Light of Yeshua that lives in us!
At first glance, Hanukkah and Christmas have little in common. One is epitomized with blue and silver, while the other with red and green. One lasts eight nights, while the other lasts one day—two if you count Christmas Eve. One remembers how God did miraculous deeds prior to the life of Yeshua on earth, while the other focuses on His birth.
Yet, these two holidays have more in common than not, because God, His unending love, and His wonderful miracles are at the heart of both.
Few of us are unaware of the story behind the holiday of Christmas—with the birth of our Messiah, Yeshua, and every beautiful event surrounding it. However, not quite as many of us know the story of Hanukkah, nor understand why it is important for us as Believers…
But Hanukkah is amazingly important for Believers, teaching us not only of our Savior, but of God’s love and awesome power!
So what is Hanukkah? What is its story? And how can it build new levels of faith by knowing its history?
Hanukkah, like many miracles we remember, occurred during a time of trouble…
In the second century BC, a Greek ruler named Antiochus IV came to rule over Jerusalem. He was a worshiper of false gods and was intent on replacing the One True God with his own idols. This obviously was not a good thing for the Jewish people—particularly those who desired to be faithful to God. But, despite Antiochus IV working to convert the Jewish people to Greek culture and false gods, no one seemed prepared to oppose him. That is, until Antiochus IV defiled the Temple by extinguishing the light of the Great Menorah, misusing the holy objects, and even bringing in Greek idols.
Most Jews did not react to this, but there was a group of Jews who refused to let God be dishonored!
Against overwhelming armies and with limited resources, these Jews—known as the Maccabees—revolted against Antiochus IV, waging war!
Three intense years of battle took place, but at last, God gave them the victory, allowing them to reclaim the Temple and Jerusalem! But their work was far from done. They had to undo the damage Antiochus IV had wrought; particularly in the Temple.
And the damage was severe. There was no end to the defilement…
Essentially every surface, every holy utensil, article, and furnishing, had to be cleaned and once more set apart to honor God.
But while this could be righted through prayer, sanctification, and sacrifice with the tools they had available, one other thing could not be done so ‘easily…’
Prior to Antiochus IV taking over the Temple, the Great Menorah had been lit continuously with holy oil, just as God Himself had directed. But in addition to simply putting out the flames, Antiochus IV had destroyed the holy oil that was used to light the Great Menorah. However, he did manage to overlook one small, still holy, bottle of oil…
It was enough for one day—a miracle in its own right that it had survived—yet it would take a week to make and consecrate more holy oil.
Now, these men could have chosen to wait to light the Great Menorah until a new batch of holy oil was just about ready… and in the natural, that may have been the thing to do. But they were ‘too eager.’ ‘Too ready’ to honor God once again. So, they lit the Great Menorah, trusting in God!
A day went by; the flame still burned.
Two days went by; the flame still burned.
Three, and four, and five days went by; the flame still burned.
Six and seven days went by; the flame still burned.
Eight days went by; the flame still burned…
The oil that should have only lasted a day naturally, lasted day after day after day, until they had made enough holy oil.
God not only gave them the miraculous victory in war, and in the cleansing and rededication of the Temple… He showed His amazing love and power through the Great Menorah’s light lasting seven days longer than it should have!
Certainly, even if we only focus on God empowering such a small group, the miraculous victory against Antiochus IV in battle is something that ought to be remembered. In this too, we see God’s beautiful display of love and power. Yet, while the God-given victory plays an important role in the Hanukkah story, there is a more important, central focus to the reason why Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights…
It is in honoring God—with the Great Menorah—and the miracle of the light that God had provided in response.
It is the Light of God that is key!
Still, there is more we can take away from Hanukkah than God’s extraordinary miracles—and it is our faith in Yeshua that makes it incredibly meaningful…
Because in a hanukkiah—a menorah with a total of nine candles or oil vessels—the center candle, known as the servant candle, represents Yeshua! The very same Yeshua who is the Light of the World, shines His Light into each of us—and into each of the other candles that He lights on the hanukkiah!
So really, for Believers, Hanukkah and Christmas BOTH focus on God, His miracles, His Son, and His GREAT love! And that is a beautiful thing.
Certainly, knowing the history of Hanukkah and knowing the history of Christmas brings joy to those who believe in God, but they are also times of remembrance.
Of remembering the history of each. Of remembering God and His love. Of remembering His call for us to be and make disciples; to love and be like Him.
One way we do this at My Olive Tree is by planting olive trees and grapevines in Israel:
- In remembering the miracles God brought to Israel at Hanukkah and Christmas.
- In remembering God’s promise that the Gentiles will help bring Israel and the Jews to His promised fullness.
- In remembering God’s desire for us to love; not only in word, but in action.
Even in remembering and honoring those who came before—such as, victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
God is so good! He loves us! And we need to remember and have great joy in that…
We need to remember and rejoice in His miracles. In His generosity.
And we need to honor Him. With our remembrance. With our love. With our helping one another. With becoming more and more like Him.
So, in this special season, let us honor God! Let us remember His love and marvelous deeds! Let us enjoy His Light and spread that Light to others!
May YOU and yours have a blessed Hanukkah and Christmas, filled with God’s Light, love, and presence!