Festival of Lights
Hanukkah has been celebrated longer than Christmas; in fact, Jesus celebrated the Feast of Lights during His ministry here on earth! Because my Savior and Lord celebrated it, and I want to know all I can about what was important to Him, I began to study the feasts celebrated by Israel.
Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights that is mentioned in John 10:22.
After the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon, they were ruled by the Persians and then Alexander the Great. Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, tried to snuff out Judaism, and desecrated the temple with the sacrifice of a pig, and dedicating the temple for worship of Zeus. Many of the Jews who did not worship this god were killed. Around 164 BC, the Jewish family of Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem and the temple. They began to purify the temple and rebuild the altar. As they were cleaning, they found only one cruse of oil (one day’s worth) to light their temple menorah, or lampstand. Miraculously, it burned continuously for 8 days, until new oil could be prepared! God made the oil last until more could be made so that the light of the temple would not go out.
A special menorah (hanukkiah) is used to celebrate the eight days of this feast. It has 8 candles for each day and one servant (shamash) candle, to light the others. Foods are prepared with oil (latkes, pancakes, donuts, etc.), Scripture is read, and the game of dreidel (DRAY del) is played, remembering “A Great Miracle Happened There”.
As Christians, we celebrate that:
- the Lord is our light (Isa 60:19)
- the Word is our light (Psalm 119:105,130)
- we should be a light to others (Matt 5:16, Luke 11:33)
- the light of the body is the eye (Luke 11:34, Acts 26:18)
- the Messiah is the light of the world (John 1:4-5; 8:12; 12:35-36)
- Paul saw the light (Acts 26:12-18)
- If Christ is your light, you are no longer in darkness (Eph 5:8-11, 1 Thess 5:4-6, 1 Peter 2:9)
- We need to shine (Phil 2:14-16)
(daily Scripture focus from A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Scarlata & Pierce)
Learning about the feasts has deepened my understanding and love for our Lord. For practical ways to honor the feasts, I would highly recommend Robin Scarlata's A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays. It also includes unit studies for further study.
For historical and spiritual background, Zola Levitt has been my tutor for over 20 years, via his programs. Zola Levitt is a Jewish believer who is now in heaven. His heart was to teach and equip Christians to better understand the Jewish aspect of Christianity. His programs continue to be available freely online, as Myles and Katharine Weiss continue this ministry.
I hope you will choose to set aside a half hour during this time of Hanukkah to learn about its significance by watching Festival of Lights at Levitt.tv. Whether you choose to celebrate or not, this is a perfect time to intentionally pray for all who are living in darkness...not truly knowing Jesus as their Messiah, Lord, and Savior...to see the Light and come to Him. As you see candles burning during this Christmas season, remember to pray that many would truly know Him. I am so grateful that physically and spiritually, Light ALWAYS overcomes darkness!