Here's one for those debating "Keep Christ in Christmas!" How about "Keep Hanukkah in Christmas!" Most may not realize this fact, but without the battle between Judas Maccabee and the Syrian Greeks, where Judas' far outnumbered forces triumphed, the religion of the Jews would have been wiped out. In 168 BC, Antiochus IV outlawed Judaism and ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.
The Greeks had made it illegal to worship as Jews and had desecrated the Temple. They set up a statue to worship Zeus and sacrificed pigs within the walls of the Temple. The Greeks were well on their way to extinguish Judaism from the world. The High Priest, Mattathias, had taken all they could so he and his five sons assembled a small army to counter the Greeks and began to do battle against them, largely using guerilla war tactics. In 166 BC, Mattathias died and his son, Judas Maccabee (the Hammer) took over and within two years had defeated the Greeks and expelled them from the land of Israel. This was no small miracle! The Jews were severely outnumbered and were up against the greatest fighting force in the world at the time - the Greeks. (Start reading at 2 Macc 8:1).
So think about it, had Judas Maccabee NOT prevailed, there would be no Judaism - those who would have attempted any sort of public worship would have been executed by the Greeks - so where would that leave us for the story of Christmas? Where would that lead to if there could be no Jewish celebrations? What would Jesus have been doing in Jerusalem and the Temple? The whole story would be different!
But again, back to reality - Judas Maccabee WON against the far superior Greek forces! Judaism persisted in the land of Israel and less than 200 years later their Messiah came and walked among them! One also may begin to wonder why Protestants do not include the two books of the Maccabees in their Bible. We should not lose focus that without Hanukkah, we really wouldn't have a Christmas!
What is the Significance of the Eight Candles in the Menorah?
After Judas Maccabee's victory, the Temple had to be cleansed and re-dedicated. The "light" of dedication was to last eight days, but their was only enough oil in the lamp to last one day. They lit the lamp anyway and went on with the dedication. By the way, "Hanukkah" means "dedication." To their amazement, the lamp stayed lit the whole eight days! The menorah, therefore, is lit - one candle per day - to commemorate the "Miracle of Light." But wait! There are NINE candles in the Hanukkah menorah! The middle candle is also called the "servant" - is used to light the other candles.
While Hanukkah is not one of the holidays commanded by God to be celebrated - it was a known feast day and Jesus was in the Temple at one point during this celebration of the Dedication of the Temple (see John 10:22-23 and 2 Macc 10:8). While not directly ordered, it was agreed upon by the Jews to celebrate this feast every year on the 25th of Kislev - and it lasts for eight days.
Hanukkah Begins on December 2, 2018
This year Hanukkah begins on December 2nd. It changes every year due to the Hebrew calendar being based on lunar cycles instead of the solar cycle, which the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) is based. Sunday, December 2nd this year is also the First Sunday of Advent, so while you're lighting your first candle on the Advent wreath, you might consider lighting the first candle on a menorah! Afterall, if Jesus celebrated this feast - should not we do so as well?
OK, here's a fun one by Six 13 and tells the story of Hanukkah!
2 Maccabees 8
2 Maccabees 10
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