This year, Hanukkah begins on the evening of Dec. 2. We can say that the evening of Dec. 2 is the first “day” of Hanukkah because in Genesis, we find the repetition of these words: “and the evening and the morning were the ___ day.” Jewish tradition defines the beginning of a new “day” (what we call nightfall) as the point at which three stars can be seen in the sky and the color red is absent from the horizon.
The Hanukkah holiday lasts eight days to commemorate the small supply of oil that lit the temple after the Maccabean uprising. It was said to be a miracle because the Maccabees had only enough oil for one night, but the Lord caused it to last for eight days!
(It seems the Lord works with oil and references to oil throughout His Word. Consider the Lord’s provision of oil through Elijah for the widow Zarephath. Or how oil was used for anointing and sacrifices. Or how Jesus used oil in the parable of the 10 virgins.)
The rededication of the temple and the miracle of oil occurred around 175 B.C., which was in the middle of the 400 years of silence, between the end of the Old Testament and the start of the New.
Christians recognize their faith is borne out of Judaism. Isaiah prophesied a complete picture of the suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53. David’s prophetic vision in Psalm 16 revealed a resurrected Christ. And, in chapter 31, the prophet Jeremiah reveals the Messiah will establish a new covenant with His people.
Jesus’ disciples and the early church believed Jesus was fulfillment of these (and many more) prophecies. Many of these believers were Jews who heard Jesus speak, witnessed the miracles, or beheld the resurrected Christ. They believed Jesus was Messiah, which brought about a rift in Judaism. Some believed, some didn’t. We know from Acts 11 that these believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch. This was to differentiate the Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah from those who were unbelievers.
And, so the term “Christian” was born.
But what does this have to do with Hanukkah?
Because the oil in the temple was used to light the holy candelabra and keep it lit, the Hanukkah holiday is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Lights. As a Christian, you know Jesus is the Light of the world. (See John 3 and 8.) This makes Hanukkah a perfect time to celebrate Jesus as that Light.
We celebrate Hanukkah in my family. Each of the eight days of Hanukkah, we gather together at the table after dinner and light the menorah, pray, and read the Word. We even conclude by singing a hearty rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” sticking our fingers in the air like candles.
It is always such joy to celebrate Hanukkah in the midst of the busy Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season because it puts Jesus into each of those eight days and causes us to slow down during the holiday rush.
May you connect with perfect peace over the course of this holiday season!
Pyra works with Creekside Gathering Place in Buena Vista and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org