Chanukah and Dedication


Did you know that the holiday of Chanukah is in the New Testament, and was observed by Jesus? Yep, it's right there in John 10:22-23, although it would be blind to most readers:

“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) You see, the Hebrew word for dedication is “chanukah”. The verse could really say “Then came the Feast of Chanukah...” You'll notice that the verse mentions winter time, further clarifying that it is Chanukah season.

The modern day celebration of Chanukah has followed that of Christmas. The emphasis is often on gift-giving, parties, etc. Often, as is the case with Christmas, the true meaning gets lost amidst the stress and materialism of the holidays. Here's the basic story in a nutshell: Only about 165 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people were once again under siege, this time by the Greco-Assyrian empire. King Antiochus demanded that the Jewish people bow down to him, or be punished. Many bowed down to the king out of fear for their lives. Antiochus and his army also defiled the Temple in Jerusalem, destroying and pilfering many of the sacred objects.

Yet one family, the Maccabees, refused to bow down to the king. They formed an army, and although greatly outnumbered and out-equipped, they proved victorious. Their first act after military victory was to restore the Temple. Legend has it that the Temple's supply of oil for the lampstand was running very low, and people were sent out to purchase more. The miracle that we recall is that the low supply of oil lasted fully eight days, enough time to replenish the supply.

What does all this mean for us, and why did Jesus feel it was important to observe the Feast of Chanukah? Let me share a few observations:

1) The oil and the lampstand: It was a commandment that the light in the Temple never be extinguished. The symbolic meaning for our lives in very clear here. Oil in the Bible is often used as a picture of the Spirit of God. The lampstand having enough oil is a picture of our lives when we are filled with the Spirit of God. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be [continually] filled with the Spirit. When the lampstand was filled with oil, it was able to shine brightly. In the same way, Jesus said “You are the light of the world...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16)

2) The Temple: It's good for us to remember the restoration of the Temple. It's even more important to remember what the New Testament says to every true follower of Jesus: “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God 's Spirit lives in you?” (I COrinthians 3:16) When we think of the original Temple in Jerusalem being restored, we ought to think or our own lives being restored and dedicated to God.

3) Dedication/Re-dedication: It's interesting to me that the holiday is called the Feast of Dedication. Interesting, because the Temple already had been dedicated centuries before. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call the holiday the Feast of Re-dedication. The original structure was still standing after the invading army got through with it, but it was defiled. So, too, you may have put your faith in your Messiah years ago, but now need to make a re-dedication. Or perhaps, the oil in you lamp is low, spiritually speaking, and you need to ask for a refill (Luke 11:13).

During all the craziness of this holiday season, don't forget the reason for the season and the Giver of the Gifts. Whether it's Chanukah or Christmas, or New Year's, it all gets down in the end to our dedication to the One who is dedicated to us.

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