The Feast of Lights!
It is a Christian celebration. Yes. It is a Jewish feast. Yes.
Yet Christians have ignored their opportunity to celebrate along with the Jews this annual observance. Why? Because Christians think that Hanukkah is solely Jewish. It is not.
It is for both Jews and Christians because its origins occurred in the inter-testamental period. That is, the historical event around which Hanukkah is based is between the last book of the Old and the first book of the New Testaments - that 400 year time frame left languishing to the holy record.
Hanukkah is the victory of God over pagan enemies. It is a forthright spiritual impact in history that holds a mighty message for both Jews and Christians. Yes, it belongs to the Jews to celebrate. But it also belongs to the Christians.
In our Christian home we have the menorah. It will be lit this evening for the start of yet another Feast of Lights eight-day commemoration. Our church family will join us.
The menorah - the eight candle lampstand represents the eight day miracle. The ninth candle is the "leader (or shammash-servant) candle," that is, the candle used to light the others, one candle each night for eight nights.
The feast itself remembers the dedication of the Temple in 165 BC by Judah Maccabee after he had conquered the armies of the Syrian oppressor, Antiochus Epiphanes, who had polluted the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar.
The reason for the eight lights is this: after the Temple was cleansed, only a day's supply of holy oil could be located. The light in the Temple burned miraculously, however, for eight days total until new oil could be found. Therefore, during the eight days of Hanukkah, one additional candle is lit each day. Prayers of thanksgiving are offered.
Hanukkah is mentioned in the Gospel of John 10:22 as the "feast of the dedication."
Jesus was in Jerusalem during this feast and made one of His clearest messianic claims (John 10:22-39). It was this same Jesus who referred to himself as "the light of the world" (John 8:12).
This year, Christian, light your menorah. Recall the historic event. Offer your prayers. Celebrate the Feast of Lights. It belongs to you as well as your Jewish neighbors. What a privilege to thank God during Hanukkah for his overriding the pagan foes' attempts at desecrating the Holy of Holies.
Thank you, God, also for the faith of the Maccabees who gave their all to restore to the faith that which could have been lost to the enemy.
J. Grant Swank Jr.