“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree, some of the Jews, have been broken off. And you Gentiles who were branches from, we might say, a wild olive tree, were grafted in. So now you, too, receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in God’s rich nourishment of his own special olive tree.” Romans 11:17 (TLB)
Why should Christians care about Hanukkah? Isn’t that a Jewish celebration? We honor the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ on December 25 and they do their candle lighting thing and eat special foods, right?
Charisma explains the connection well in their article Here’s Why Christians Should Celebrate Hanukkah. As followers of Christ, we do well to humbly recall that our Savior, Yeshua is Jewish and our faith roots trace back centuries.
As a Christian, I’ve learned that the Jewish feasts are holy days on God’s calendar. If they are holy to Him, they should be holy to me. While Hanukkah is not a feast day, it is a festive time (festival of lights) where the Jewish people remember the faithful protection of God toward their nation under siege.
God our Faithful Protector
On this second day of Hanukkah, let us reflect on God’s faithfulness toward the tiny nation of Israel. Had the Greeks annihilated Israel during the 166-129 B.C wars, “there would have been no Jewish woman named Mary to become the mother of Jesus Christ” (Susan Michael, Charisma).
The 2nd century Israeli Maccabees faced a bleak future. Their name derived from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. They had suffered religious persecution for decades and had little chance of defeating the Syrian Greek superior armies, which had better ammunition, weapons and reserves. Their officers had a history of victorious campaigns. Despair could have ruled their minds if they let it.
If the external threats weren’t intimidating enough, consider
the psychological impact of knowing many of your Jewish brethren had compromised their faith. Relinquishing laws , rituals, and tradition in favor of assimilating into the Syrian Greek culture, they became Hellenized. Becoming “enlightened,” these Jews considered the faith of their fathers antiquated, the religious rituals outdated and unnecessary.
Which Century Are We Discussing?
I cannot help but see the spiritual parallels to the 20th and 21st century. Millennials and Gen-X’ers often have little use for the faith of their parents and grandparents. Modern adults aged 20-40 disconnect from organized religion and our culture bears evidence of spiritual and moral decline.
But I digress. The Maccabees faced daunting, overwhelming odds. There was no earthly plan that would deliver a victory against a superior foe. They needed a miracle and it came! Facing off into battle, armed with the resilience that God would strengthen them, they fought valiantly. I imagine it was bloody, gruesome and loud. But they overcame and lived to pass down their faith story.
Our Takeaway: According to Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, “the miracle is that human beings, fallible and imperfect, overcame their doubts and found a new script. They rejected the odds and charted a new future.”
In my Christian mindset, Hanukkah reveals ELOHIM – a God as “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33). I see EL SHADDAI – “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5) One with ultimate power over all. The Maccabean victory was surely won by the aid of YAHWEH-SABAOTH – “The Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7) – Hosts means “hordes,” both of angels and of men. He is Lord of the host of heaven and of the inhabitants of the earth, of Jews and Gentiles, of rich and poor, master and slave. To God be all glory, honor and power, forever, Amen!
Come back tomorrow for Day 3: The Miracle of the Oil