Given that Hanukkah is a historically Jewish festival and that its celebration is not a mitzvah (commandment) of the Torah, why would Gentile believers in Yeshua celebrate it? Obviously Jewish believers have a cultural affinity for the festival, but is there any real biblical significance to it? Is there any reason Christians might want to incorporate the celebration of Hanukkah into their homes? Here are five reasons you may want to consider celebrating.
1. Did you know that Hanukkah is in the Gospels?
Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures because the story of Hanukkah happened after the last book of the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures) had been written. However, Hanukkah is mentioned in the New Testament. Yeshua went to the Temple for the Feast of Hanukkah.
We can read in John chapter 10 that Yeshua was in Solomon’s Colonnade for the “Feast of Dedication,” which is another name for Hanukkah. “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon” (John 10:22-23). The Master was acknowledging this feast during his time with his people. We can follow his example, unite with Israel and stand in solidarity with them, especially in today’s world of hatred and growing anti-Semitism.
2. Did you know that Hanukkah is a story of religious persecution?
Hanukkah is a story of religious persecution and standing up for faith in God. Yeshua tells us we can expect persecution, but he also tells us that we must stand firm in our faith. Hanukkah is the perfect time of year to think about these issues and reflect on how the Maccabees stood up under harsh persecution because their faith in honoring God motivated them more than fear did. This is a beautiful lesson that all families of faith can and should impart into their children’s hearts and minds. Yeshua too stood up under persecution—even to the point of death—in order to honor the Father.
3. Did you know that Hanukkah is the Festival of the Light of the World?
Hanukkah is the Festival of Light. It celebrates the relighting of the menorah lamp that burned in God’s Holy Temple. In rabbinic terminology, the menorah was sometimes called the “light of the world.” Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world,” and another time he told his disciples, “You are the light of the world.”
The beautiful, soft, warm glow of the candles on Hannukiahs provides the perfect backdrop against which to reflect on how a small amount of light permeates all areas of darkness. We can find inspiration to let our faith in Yeshua shine through our actions and thus affect the darkness in the world around us.
4. Did you know that Yeshua talked about Hanukkah?
Yeshua talked about Hanukkah. He warned his disciples that the things that happened in the story of Hanukkah would happen again: “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16; see also Mark 13:13-16). To understand what he was saying, his disciples had to know the story of Hanukkah.
His words come into clear focus for us, his modern-day disciples, when we study the Hanukkah story and find its parallels and messages. Our Master’s words are still as important for us today as they were for his disciples during his day.
5. Did you know that Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of God's Temple?
Hanukkah means “dedication.” It is a remembrance of when the Jews cleansed and rededicated God’s Holy Temple for the LORD’s service alone. The New Testament tells us that we are God’s temple. We can take the time during this season to spiritually strengthen ourselves and to make sure that our “temples” are clean, void of idolatry, and prepared to be the place where God’s Spirit can dwell in peace.
There are many lessons to be learned through the example of the people of God in the story of Hanukkah—embracing this time gives us the opportunity to connect with Israel, learn of our history, and continue the good fight that they started.
May this season be strengthening to you!