Monday, December 22, 2008

Thoughts for Believers on Chanukah and Christmas

Op/Ed by Aimee Herd (December 22, 2008)

Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of light, as the oil and the lamp burned for 8 days. Jesus coming into the world and into our lives as Savior is also a miracle of light.

To celebrate Chanukah (sometimes spelled Hanukah) is to give God honor and praise for His miraculous protection over, and provision for, His people Israel.

ChanukahAs Believers in Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah), there are very meaningful and important parallels that can be drawn from this, the Jewish "Festival of Lights." I've shared a few of those below, some of which were originally posted back in 2005, when the first day of Chanukah actually fell on Christmas day. This year, Chanukah begins today; Monday, December 22nd.

For those who are unfamiliar with the historical account behind Chanukah, I've first included some facts…

Chanukah History:
At about 168 BC, during the time the Syrian/Greeks had taken over the Temple in Jerusalem, a band of Jewish rebels known as Macabees, headed up a successful revolt and defeated the Syrian armies—against all odds—reclaiming the Temple for the Jews. The battle was led by Judah and his four brothers. The name Macabee is actually an acrostic for "Who among the mighty is like Thee O God?"

According to the Mishna, it took 8 days to recapture and clean out the Temple. The Talmud says the Syrian/Greek armies had desecrated all the specially prepared jugs of oil which the Jewish High Priest would use for lighting the lamp. However, after searching, they found one small jug left undefiled, containing barely enough oil for one day. The High Priest lighted the lamp and it miraculously burned for eight days, until more oil could be brought in—a beautiful picture of God's sovereign provision for His people.

Parallels between Chanukah and Christmas:
Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of light, as the oil and the lamp burned for 8 days. Jesus coming into the world and into our lives as Savior is also a miracle of light. John chapter 1 tells us, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

What is exciting to me when we look at the observances of both Chanukah and Christmas, is the definition behind the name of each celebration. Chanukah means "dedication" or "rededication." Christmas means "the birth of Christ."

Rick WarrenPerhaps God speaks to each Believer through these two memorials of His faithfulness to "rededicate" the "birth of Christ" in their lives.

In Rev. 2, in the Bible, Jesus praises the Church in Ephesus for their good works for the Kingdom, however, He warns them that they have left their "first love." He tells them to "remember therefore where you have fallen" and to do the things they did at first, which speaks of rededication.

Also, since the oil, by all natural laws should've been used up after the first day; but continued to provide the lamp with fuel to burn until more could be found or produced, it is a visual reminder of how God miraculously provides for His children. That is a miracle—of provision—which we saw duplicated on at least a couple occasions by Jesus, in the multiplication of food.

The message is clear, and one we desperately need to remember in this time of uncertain economy; Jehovah Jireh—God is our Provider.

Another noteworthy point from the story of Chanukah is that Judah the Macabee was the one who led the offensive to reclaim the Temple. The name "Judah" means praise and, as stated before, the word Macabee is an acrostic for the phrase "Who among the mighty is like Thee O God?" which is also praise. I believe praise and worship can lead the way in rededicating our lives back to our Savior Jesus Christ.

We can reclaim and rededicate our temple of the Holy Spirit, as we come into a place of deep and intimate worship and praise of our awesome God; remembering how He first saved us.

Finally and interestingly enough, one of the traditional songs sung at Chanukah is Maoz Tzur or Rock of Ages. (Not to be confused with the Christian hymn.) The transliteration of the first stanza of this 800-year-old song is as follows:

O mighty stronghold of my salvation, to praise You is a delight.

Restore my House of Prayer and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.

When You will have prepared the slaughter for the blaspheming foe,

Then I shall complete with a song of hymn the dedication of the Altar.

May the Lord restore our "Houses of Prayer" this Christmas—and this Chanukah—as we remember our first love for the One who gave His life for us, and who has made us each a temple for the light of His Holy Spirit.

And may we each rededicate our lives to our purpose as Believers spoken of in 1 Peter 2:9- "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

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