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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Happy Hanukkah!

Not everyone will be aware that, as disciples of Jesus prepare for the celebrations that remember His birth as a helpless infant, Jewish people, all over the world, are beginning an eight-day festival known as Hanukkah, or The Festival of Lights. 

The origin of the festival goes back to the period between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament - in 168 B.C.  The Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offence punishable by death, enforcing idolatry, and forbidding the Jewish People from reading the Torah and following it. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.  He even desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar.

Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews.  God delivered His people through a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his sons.  They led a small group of Jewish men (the Maccabees) to rise up against the 25,000 soldiers of the Syrian/Greek army, and defeat them  When the Jewish priests entered the Temple to re-dedicate it and light the Menorah (Candlestick), they found only one bottle of undefiled oil — enough to last just one day.

Miraculously, that tiny supply of oil lasted eight full days.  This gave the priests enough time to create more sanctified oil to keep the Temple Menorah burning 24 hours a day.
Over 100 years later, Jesus of Nazareth was in the Temple on Hanukkah when He was asked directly if He was the Messiah?  "It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly'."  (John 10:22–24).

The record continues: "Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness to Me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to My sheep'." (John 10:25-26).

On that Hanukkah, Jesus (Yeshua) confirmed to those asking that He is the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel.  Other verses confirm that He is the Light of the World
(John 8:12) and also that through Him we can be lights shining in the darkness of these last days (Philippians 2:15).

The Shamash (servant candle) sits higher on the Hanukkah menorah than the other eight candles and is used to light them.  What a wonderful representation of Jesus, the Light of the World, and how He gives us the "light of life," through the Holy Spirit.

As many of us travel this Advent season, and look forward to our Christmas celebrations, let us remember that while "He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not." yet "... to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:11-13).

Have you yet believed?  Have you?

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