This year the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah also known as the Festival of Lights begins the same day as the Christian church celebrates Advent Sunday (2nd December). Hanukkah is an eight day celebration and runs to the evening of Monday, 10th December.
The origins of Hanukkah go back to second century BC when the Greek regime led by Antiochus IV, that ruled the land of Israel at that time, was trying to stamp out Jewish culture and religion. Among the things they did was to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem and forbid the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. In 165BC, the Jews under their great hero Judas Maccabeus won back their freedom (for a short time until the Romans came!!) and re-dedicated the Temple. The word Hanukkah means dedication. They relit the Temple lamps but they only had enough oil to keep the lights going for one day. The story goes that, amazingly, the Temple lamps stayed alight for eight days.
Today Jewish families light an eight pointed candle holder (the menorah) and put it in the window of their homes to commemorate the re-dedication of the Temple all those years ago. Many non Jews have also adopted this practise as part of their Christmas decorations. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, (you can read about it in John 10:22-23) the festival of light and dedication, during his ministry and now as we approach Christmas we prepare to celebrate God’s true light coming into the world as a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem and we have the opportunity, if we take it, to dedicate ourselves anew to him.
We don’t have to look around very far to see that there is much darkness in the world today and some of us perhaps through illness or bereavement, fear for the future or regret for the past, experience this darkness on a daily basis. Jesus said to his first frightened followers:-
“I have come into this world as a light, so no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)
Jesus went on to say: –
“I did not come to judge the world but to save it.” (John 12:47)
This Advent and Christmastide let us take heart from the words of Jesus and rededicate ourselves to him and let us remember that what we celebrate is nothing less than God himself being born as a helpless human baby to embody his promise to all humanity spoken long ago through the prophet Isaiah.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isa. 43:1)
May the light of God’s love shine in you and from you at this time of celebration!!
Marion joins with me in wishing you all a happy, joyful and peaceful Christmas.