John 10:22-23- Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. NKJV
Hanukkah was actually celebrated this year from December 10th to the 18th. Many Christians are unaware of this Jewish festival, but since it is celebrated during the holiday season in December, I wanted to at least share why it’s celebrated and see if I could “tie” it in to it’s spiritual significance for me as a believer.
In our key verse, John made note of the fact that Jesus went to the synagogue during the Feast of Dedication. This feast actually has several names including, the Feast of Lights, and Hanukkah! This is not a feast that the people were given by God, but one that was instituted in Jewish culture as a result of a dark time in their history. It is widely observed today by Jews all over the world.
There was a Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned from 175 BC to 164 BC. He had the bright idea that he would get rid of all things Jewish in Palestine, including their religion, and replace it with all things Greek. His first attempts to do so were peaceful, but didn’t get him the results that he wanted, so in 170 BC he launched an attack against Jerusalem. This attack resulted in the deaths and enslavement of over 150,000 Jews. He stole from the Temple treasury and made it a capital offense to possess a copy of the Law, or to circumcise a child. The list of his sins were many, including the defiling of the temple in every way he could think of.
Then Judas Maccabaeus and his brother led a fight for freedom. In 164 BC they finally won the battle over king Antiochus and began a cleansing and purification of the Temple. It was to commemorate this time of Temple cleansing and restoration that the Feast of Dedication was instituted. Judas Maccabaeus had determined that the feast should be a happy occasion and should last for eight days, beginning on the 25th of the month of Chislev. Lights were a huge part of the celebration, thus the name, the Festival of Lights. There are two different views about the lights. According to one historian, eight lights were placed in the windows on the first day of the feast. Each day a light was snuffed out until there was only one light remaining on the last day. The way I heard it told, was just the opposite. A candlestick with eight branches was placed in the window and each day, a candle was added and there would be eight lights on the last day burning in the windows.
Some say the lights had a more significant, miraculous meaning, other than celebrating the light of freedom returning to Jerusalem. It is said that when they re-lit the menorah, the seven-branch candlestick, at the first celebration, they only had enough purified oil to light the lamps for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for the entire eight day celebration, and thus the eight days of burning candles is a testament of the miracle God gave when the oil lasted for those eight days instead of one. Just a bit history to set the background for my thought for today.
The first time I heard of the Feast of Dedication, I was a teenager. Time was set aside at the end of every year, during the festival dates, to re-dedicate our lives to the Lord for the upcoming year. It was a time of soul-searching, reflecting on the past year, and goal-setting for the next year. Although, I don’t “celebrate” this festival in its fullness, I do (like most people) use this last month of the year to reflect and to think about the past year and the goals that I want to set for the upcoming year.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20- Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
I can so understand a spiritual connection to the Festival of Dedication, based on this scripture in 1 Corinthians. If a physical temple needs cleansing and purification, as a believer, I want to keep my spiritual temple cleansed and purified. I may not burn candles (for I understand that Jesus is still the Light of my world), and it may not take me eight days to do what I need to do; however, I do think a time to reflect is needed. Time to think about how I took care of the Lord’s temple, my body, what I allowed to be done in this temple, and through this temple, and if in the end did it glorify my Lord. That reflection may lead me to repentance, or just a time of worship and joy, but I still believe today, it is beneficial.
When I gave my heart to the Lord as a child, I didn’t know all that I was doing or all that it meant. When I recommitted my life to the Lord, as a teen, I had greater understanding. I have never changed my mind, my heart, or my focus from serving the Lord, but I can occasionally find myself in need of restoration, rejuvenation, or refocusing of my time.
Jesus went to the temple during this feast. No other mention of the celebration is mentioned. But I wanted to tie a scripture to my thinking. Instead of making a new year resolution, maybe what’s needed is more of a heartfelt time of contemplation before Jesus, the Savior! A time of being real and keeping it real, as we head into the year of 2021. A time of saying, maybe we didn’t quite do all that we thought we would do this year, Lord; but we’re looking forward to doing so much more in the year to come! Wonderful Jesus!