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5 Reasons Why Some Christians Celebrate Hanukkah

In the quiet moments of December, when the world is bustling in merry cheer, my heart seeks a celebration that echoes the true essence of this season—Christ at its center. That's what led me to dig into the historical and prophetic richness of Hanukkah. It's not just about breaking from the commercial grip of the holidays but finding a bridge to the roots of our faith that can hold new meaning for our lives today. My exploration has not been just a theological exercise but a heartfelt quest to discover how this time-honored Jewish festival intersects with my Christian faith, particularly as I seek to lay a foundation of truth in celebration for my young son.

Though I ultimately decided not to celebrate Hanukkah, I still wanted to share the profound connections I've found between Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and Christ, the Light of the World.

History of Hannukah

The historical roots of Hanukkah trace back to a tumultuous time in Jewish history a few hundred years before Christ was born. It was an era marked by profound spiritual struggle and sociopolitical strife. Under the oppressive regime of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Jewish people were driven into an intense period of persecution. Jewish practices were outlawed, and the sacred spaces of worship desecrated. The tipping point came with the installation of an altar to Zeus in the Jewish Temple, a grievous act of sacrilege that ignited the Maccabean Revolt.

This revolt was not merely a physical battle but a fight for the preservation of Jewish identity and faith. Led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, the revolt achieved what many considered impossible — the mighty Seleucid army was driven out of Jerusalem. The temple's liberation was an emotional and spiritual victory, marking a new chapter for the Jewish people.

The miracle of Hanukkah began with the rededication of the Second Temple and the lighting of the menorah. This seven-branched candelabrum, originally commanded by God to Moses for the tabernacle and later placed in the temple, was not just a physical light source; it represented the eternal flame of God's presence among His people. The Menorah's light was a daily testament to the Israelites that God's providence and enlightenment are everlasting.

When the Maccabees entered the Temple, they sought to relight the temple's menorah and found only a single container of oil left undefiled by the Seleucids. This small flask had just enough oil to burn for one day, yet, by divine intervention, it burned for eight full days — the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil.

This extraordinary event became the foundation of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, also celebrated as the Festival of Lights. It honors not only the military victory and the temple's rededication but also the miracle of the oil, symbolizing the resilience of faith and the light of divine providence.

5 Reasons Christians Find Meaning in Hanukkah

1. Jesus’ Participation in Hanukkah 

The New Testament records Jesus observing Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23). This suggests a model for Christians to remember and reflect upon the historical and spiritual lessons of Hanukkah, drawing closer to the practices of Jesus Himself.

2. The Symbolism of Light

The menorah, or the golden candlestick, holds a significant place in the history of God's

people. In Exodus, the detailed instructions for the menorah—crafted from a single piece of pure gold and adorned with intricate designs—speak of God's intention for beauty and continuity in His place of dwelling. The candlestick was to be kept burning continuously as a symbol of God's eternal light (Leviticus 24:2). The enduring flame symbolizes not only historical deliverance but also the personal salvation available to us through Jesus.

The number eight in scripture often signifies new beginnings and completion, and so the eight-day miracle of Hanukkah can be seen as a foreshadowing of the complete work of Christ, who declared, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).

3. The New Temple

Jesus Christ declares Himself as not only a messenger of God, but as God manifest in the flesh, the firstborn of a new creation of living temples. In John 10:30, amidst the Feast of Dedication, Jesus's words, “I and the Father are one” are more than a claim; they are the revelation of the temple made human. His very existence on earth as a man was a living temple, the first sanctified vessel of God's presence, beginning a new covenant where the human heart becomes God's dwelling place, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

4. The Miracle of the Oil

With the smallest measure of faith, our lives can radiate with the presence of the Almighty. The Maccabees found but a small cruse of oil, enough to burn for only one day, yet it lasted eight—the number symbolizing new beginnings and the miraculous amplification of God's blessing upon our willing efforts. In much the same way, Jesus, born in a lowly manger, became the light of salvation to a world enshrouded in darkness.

And just as that oil was enough to fulfill God’s purpose, so too was Christ's arrival on earth sufficient to rekindle the hope of humanity. His life and sacrifice exemplify how God takes the little—the overlooked and undervalued—and magnifies it to fulfill grand purposes. He takes our little and makes it much, turning our meager contributions into a resplendent display of His love and power.

5. Dedication and Purification 

Hanukkah’s focus on rededication resonates with our call to continual renewal of faith, personal dedication, and the sanctification found in Christ. Hanukkah offers a time for believers to consider their own 'temple'—their hearts—and the cleansing power of Christ's presence within.

How Hanukkah is Celebrated

About the menorah

Hanukkah menorahs have nine candles: one for each of the 8 days that God miraculously kept the little bit of oil burning for the Maccabean temple dedication, and one candle is known as the “shamash,” or the “servant” candle, because it is used to light the others each night.

About the candles

Every night the candles are lit in succession, one for each miraculous night that the temple lamp continued burning even without any natural source of fuel. The night's candles (including the servant candle) should be left to burn all the way out. Hanukkah candles are thin and usually burn out within an hour. Every night fresh candles are lit for a total of 44 candles over the 8-day celebration.

What day to start

Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev per the lunar-based Jewish calendar, which shifts in relation to the solar-based Gregorian calendar. Ask Google.

If you decide to celebrate

As you light each Hanukkah candle, let it remind you of the light that one true Light brought forth. In the same spirit, resolve to be bearers of that light, embodying the hope and courage that come from Christ. May it stir you to be a flicker of faith in your corner of the world, leaning on the Spirit to multiply your humble efforts exponentially.

May our lives be a testament to God’s enduring light and love.


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