Messiah and Chanukah

Posted: December 22, 2011 in Christian Living
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Chanukah commemorates events that took place around 168-165 B.C. The Jewish people were under Syrian domination and ruled by the Syrian king Antiochus. The Jews were forced to abandon their culture and religion. He made sure the Jewish people could not use the Temple to worship God. He erected pagan idols in the holy place and worst of all; he sacrificed a pig on the altar!

The Jewish people were utterly defeated and demoralized—until a small band of guerilla soldiers known as the Maccabees rekindled their hope. Within three years, these warriors miraculously recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple.

Note that Chanukah (which means dedication) was not named for the brave warriors. The real victory was being able to freely worship the God of Israel once again. The Temple was rededicated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, in the year 165 BC. What is not commonly realized is that this holiday is found within the pages of the New Testament Writings. Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated Chanukah as recorded in John 10:22-30:

Now it was the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

It was on Chanukah that Messiah publicly revealed his Messianic identity by proclaiming to them, “I and the Father are one.”(v.30)

Another aspect of Chanukah is that Yeshua mirrors that of the Servant Candle (Shamash). He taught his disciples to serve others as he did. He came to serve and not to be served. The Servant Candle is a picture of the Suffering Servant Messiah as prophesied in Isaiah 53:5.

But aside from the Messianic tones, the primary message of Chanukah is that we should reject pagan influences and follow what is written for us in the Scriptures.

How do we celebrate Chanukah? The Chanukah menorah is placed in a window to publicize this great miracle. The candles are placed in the menorah from left to right and the candles are kindled from right to left. The center candle is called the Shamash. (Servant / helper) The Shamash is removed, lit, and used to kindle the other candles then returned to its holder.

The blessings are said with the Shamash already lit, but immediately prior to lighting the Chanukah candles: 1.)”Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.” 2.)” Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the universe, who made miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.” The following paragraph is said each night, after the first light has been kindled:

“We kindle these lights for the miracles and wonders, for the redemption and the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days at this season through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but only look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great name, and for Your miracles, and Your wonders, and Your salvation.”

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, we enjoy sitting in the glow and read from the Hallel over the course of Chanukah week. The Hallel is a sequence of praise and gratitude-themed Psalms found in Psalms 113-118. We occasionally sing songs and recall the miracles of yesterday and today.

A number of other customs have developed, including: Eating “oily” foods like fried potato latkes (pancakes) and jelly donuts in commemoration of the miracle of the oil, giving Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) to children, and spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side.

In times of the Syrian persecution when Torah study was forbidden, Jewish children would learn by using a dreidel and pretend to be playing a game to fool soldiers. Today’s version of dreidel is where players use pennies, nuts, raisins, or chocolate coins as tokens or chips. Each player puts an equal share into the “pot” and the players take turns spinning the dreidel. The letters on the dreidel are nun, gimmel, hey, shin ― the first letters of Nes Gadol Haya Sham – “A Great Miracle Happened There.”   Click here for instructions on how to play Dreidel.

Chanukah demonstrates the Jewishness of Yeshua. The scriptures clearly show that the Messiah Yeshua was born of a Jewish mother, he is a descendant of King David, and belongs to the Tribe of Judah. His coming was foretold by the Jewish Prophets. All of these things confirm His Jewishness. However, the “clincher” for us is his observance of the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) as related in John 10:22-23. The fact that he traveled, in the middle of winter, from Galilee to Jerusalem, tells me that Yeshua was serious about His Jewishness.

As we kindle our Chanukah candles, let us remember this shining Son of Israel, who loved his people and lived out the message of the Servant Candle of Chanukah.

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