Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday. At least that's what the majority of Christians have been taught. Consequently, few understand it and even fewer observe it. But this is such a shame, because it commemorates the miraculous working of God in the lives of His people, no less than David slaying Goliath, Joshua and the "battle" at Jericho, or the return of the people to the Land after the Babylonian captivity.
So today I'd like to share five reasons why keeping Hanukkah is important for the Christian. The following list comes from Light in the Darkness: Hanukkah and the Disciples of Yeshua. First Fruits of Zion. Littleton, CO. 2003. pp. 18-19.
1. Did you know that Hanukkah is in the Gospels?
2. Did you know that Hanukkah is a story of religious persecution?
3. Did you know that Hanukkah is the Festival of the Light of the World?
4. Did you know that Yeshua talked about Hanukkah?
5. Did you know that Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of God's Temple?
Hanukkah is not one of the Biblical feasts of Leviticus 23. However, it is mentioned in John 10:22.
John 10:22-23 (KJV)
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
It was winter in Jerusalem during the feast of dedication (Hanukkah). Yeshua was there in the temple. If Yeshua observed this feast why wouldn't we observe it since we are His disciples?
During the days of the Seleucid reign over Israel, a very wicked man, by the name of Antiochus Ephiphanes, came to power. He was very interested in spreading Hellenism throughout his kingdom. Eventually, he made Torah observance, circumcision, Shabbat (Sabbath) observance, and the sacrificial system illegal. In fact he put up an altar to Zeus in the Temple of God and slaughtered pigs there (the abomination of desolation from Daniel 12:11). Women who had their infant boys circumcised were killed and had their sons hung from their necks. Many Jews accepted Hellenism to save their lives, but a family, the Maccabees, refused to submit to the persecution and started a revolution. Although seriously outnumbered, the Maccabees were victorious. This story is worth knowing and repeating to our future generations.
When the Maccabees retook Jerusalem they needed to cleanse and rededicate the Temple. One of the items that they needed to set up was the menorah. Tradition says that they only had enough oil for one day and it would take eight days to prepare more. Yet, when they lit the menorah it miraculously lasted for the full eight days. No one knows if this was true or not, but this became the basis of the holiday. A special eight branched menorah is lit each night of Hanukkah as a reminder. It has become known as the festival of lights. The menorah has been called "the light of the world". Yeshua called Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12) and drew a connection between the menorah and himself. Why shouldn't this be important to us?
In Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15 Yeshua spoke about a coming time of trial for Israel that would look very similar to what had occurred during the days of the Maccabees. Although the time may also depict another yet future time, Yeshua was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.
Mark 13:14 (KJV)
But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
Matthew 24:15 (KJV)
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Again Yeshua was drawing connections between the past, the immediate future, and potentially the far future. Shouldn't we understand these things?
The rededication of the Temple was important to the Jewish people. It was important to God. Believers are also called the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). Shouldn't we learn something from this?
Hanukkah is indeed a Jewish holiday, but it is so much more than that. It mattered to Yeshua and it should matter to us. Hanukkah is also a holiday for the Christian.