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Why I Celebrate Chanukah

Within what is called the “Hebrew Roots” Movement there are many differing opinions on the two “non-Levitical” feasts. These are Purim and Chanukah. Both were not “commanded by God” in the Torah, so it becomes a question for people about whether or not they are “man-made traditions" like Christmas and Easter. 

As I have processed and considered what these festivals mean, I have chosen to celebrate them and I hope I can explain in this document why. These festivals are mentioned in the Bible, and it even says that Jesus was in the Temple during Chanukah (John 10).  Let me explain Chanukah in this teaching. I will write another one about Purim. 

Back in 168 BC Antiochus massacred the citizens of Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple with idols. On the 25th of Kislev in 165-164 BC, a family called the Maccabees, led by Judah, began a revolt and captured Jerusalem. They believed in Torah and their God enough that they knew it was not pleasing to God for the Temple to have idols. When they recaptured the Temple they cleansed it, reinstated the priests and renewed services. 

Since this revolt the celebration of Chanukah has taken place. 

Why would a celebration like this be important for people today?

First, if this family had not taken back the Temple and cleansed it, the Jewish people could have died off. Without an understanding of who God was for them, they would have stopped following the Torah and the laws God had given to them. With no direction, people groups fade away.

Second, since Christianity is based on Torah (the Bible does have the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers at the beginning), without Torah and the Jewish people being saved and re-established, we would not have Christianity as we know it today. Jesus was Jewish and came from the line of David. If the Jewish people had faded away, there would not have been a man named Jesus who fulfilled the prophecies. 

We should be able to clearly see that this revolt to “save the Temple” was part of God’s plan of keeping the Jewish people, His chosen generation, alive. This revolt, which actually saved the Jewish people, took place between the writings of the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.” Jesus was not born yet. 

The celebration remembering this day was significant enough that it was mentioned in the Bible. 

John 10:22-23 Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade. CJB

I choose to understand that Jesus was in the Temple for a reason during this feast of dedication. He knew what the priests of the day needed to understand. He knew what we as followers of Him need today. What could that “secret” be?

The Maccabee family rededicated the Temple to God. They cleansed what they knew to be holy and set it apart once again for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus understood this. His teaching was always about being clean before the Father. He taught that keeping the “Temple” holy was important. However, the “Temple” Jesus spoke of was one, not of stone, but on our hearts. 

Our bodies became the Temple we are required to keep holy before the Lord. Jesus spoke of that in His teachings. The Temple was not where God dwelt, but within us. When Jesus left, the Holy Spirit came to be withIN us. Thus, our body must be kept holy before Him and we need to rededicate ourselves to Him.

Chanukah is a time of year we can be reminded of this. 

There is an argument that says just because Jesus was in the Temple during Chanukah does not mean he was supporting the festival. He could have been challenging the leaders. He could have just been there to teach. This argument would say that Jesus would not be participating in, or endorsing, the celebration. 

This is where we really do not know why Jesus was in the Temple. The Bible is not clear. The verse in John, as you can see above, just says He was in the Temple area and Solomon’s Colonnade during the Feast of Dedication. I do not believe that we can say for certain what He was doing. 

If we do not truly know that Jesus was celebrating the rededication of the Temple, why would someone want to participate in this feast?

I choose to believe that there is significance to understanding rededication of our bodies, and to understand that without this event in history, we would not have Jesus. Yes, God could use a different way to bring His Savior into the world, but He chose to do it through the Jews and this was part of His plan. If the Jews had died off, Jesus would not have been born. I choose to believe that this event in history was important enough to be mentioned in the Bible, so it is important enough to celebrate. 

Since I choose to celebrate this holiday, I will let you know how our family celebrates. 

Most people have probably heard the story about the oil being multiplied during the recapturing and cleansing of the Temple. It has come to light that this might not have been a real event, but a fictitious story made up by some rabbis years ago. This story is how the festival also became known as the “Festival of Lights.” 

When the Maccabee family captured the Temple, there was enough oil for the seven branch menorah (which is spoken of in Torah and one of the pieces in the Tabernacle) to burn for one day. The light in the Temple was never supposed to go out. It would take eight days to make new oil to be burned in the menorah. The “miracle” was that the oil lasted for the eight days and the light never went out. This is why at Chanukah time candles are lit in a nine branch “menorah” known as a Chanukiah and why Chanukah is an eight day celebration.

There is one candle that sits higher than the other eight. This candle is the “shemah” or “servant” candle. This candle lights all the others. 

In our family, we consider this candle to be the “love” candle. The ultimate servant, Jesus, was full of love. This candle of love, is what lights the rest of the candles for the next eight nights. Love lights Joy the first night. The second night Love lights Joy and Peace. The third night it lights Joy, Peace, and Patience. I think you see the pattern. By the eighth night when all the candles are lit, we have learned about the Fruits of the Spirit.

This is not something our family came up with. A friend from when we were first in Israel taught us this. She was a Jew who believed in Jesus as her Messiah and I don’t know if the Holy Spirit taught her, or if someone else did, but we have used this teaching since she shared it with us. It has been a blessing for our family as we learn and study about the fruits of the Spirit, with Jesus being our servant of love.

There is also significance about oil in the Word of God. The Holy Spirit can be poured out like oil. The Shepherd anoints His flock with oil. Oil burns as a light. The brides waiting for the bridegroom needed oil. Oil is spoke of often in the Bible. 

Light is also spoken of often in the Word of God. The Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We are called to be the “light of the world.” We are told to not hide our light. 

Both of these themes are prevalent in many teachings that Jesus shared. Having a week set apart where we can learn and study more in depth about them should be viewed as a bonus for us who follow Jesus. 

It is my hope and prayer that through this teaching you can see that the understanding of Chanukah is important for all those who say that Jesus is their Savior and Messiah. Whether or not the story of the miracle of the oil burning for eight days is true or not, this revolt was a historical event that happened. Without this historical event, the Temple would have lain in desecration longer than it did.

I believe it is time we take back our understanding of history. It is time we look at the Word of God as living and active, and if God saw it important enough that the mention of Chanukah is in the Bible, then it should be important for us to study and understand why. I pray this teaching brings clarity to some of the importance of this time of year. 

Love and blessings friends -

Written by Rose Horton




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