Growing up in a traditional Jewish family, Jesus participated in the traditional Jewish festivals. One of those festivals was Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights.
Isn’t it fitting that the Light of the world celebrated the Festival of Lights?
We are drawn to light – we cannot help it. Light offers a point of reference when darkness threatens to swallow us whole. We gravitate toward light for illumination and warmth. As Christians, light represents hope and rescue us from eternal darkness.
Hanukkah is happening as we speak (November 28-December 6, 2021). Since Hanukkah means dedication, it is also called the Festival of Dedication. It commemorates the Jewish victory by the Maccabees in 165 B.C. over the Syrians to regain political and religious freedom.
Hanukkah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights because the sacred temple lamp is said to have burned eight days on one day’s supply of sacred oil, all that was left. The menorah, a special nine-branch candleholder, is lit today on each of the eight days of celebration.
The menorah is also described in Exodus 25:31-40 as the lampstand made of pure gold set up by Moses in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Lutheran Church in Tel Aviv contains a stunning menorah in its stained glass.
There is no reference in the Old Testament to Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, or the Festival of Lights. It happened during the 400 years of God’s silence between the Old and New Testaments.
However, in the New Testament: “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade” (John 10:22-23).
The Light of the world strolling near the temple during the Festival of Lights paints a beautiful, meaningful portrait. Seven centuries before Jesus walked along that colonnade, Isaiah foretold: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shown” (Isaiah 9:2).
Just think of how many people strolled past the Light of the world clueless about His true identity.
Just as the lights of Hanukkah, Advent, and Christmas overcome darkness, so the darkness of this world is overcome by our Messiah, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Jesus honored the Jewish feast of Hanukkah as a tradition that showcased God’s faithfulness in preserving His people. Jesus knew that celebrations matter. Remember the wedding in Cana? And even though Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas, nor Easter are celebrations commanded by Scripture, they invite us to pause our crazy days. To remember God’s grace. To spend meaningful time with each other.
Regardless of any darkness you and I face in our world today, inner peace prevails because of the Light of the world. So, whether you light a menorah, an Advent wreath, or a Christmas tree, remember the reason for the celebration:
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
*A special thanks to Rev. Kevin Parviz whose material provided the facts for this post.