Hanukkah began at sunset yesterday. As a Christian, I celebrate this holiday because the roots of my own faith are in Judaism. Below, I’ve shared an article my dad wrote a few years ago concerning Hanukkah and how the Christian faith and Christmas exist because of the Jewish faith and the events that brought about the celebration of Hanukkah. May you enjoy the blessings of God’s love and provision during this season of celebration.
WITHOUT HANUKKAH, THERE WOULD BE NO CHRISTMAS
(by Ted Pavloff)
I do not hesitate to say, or apologize for saying, that our Christian heritage is in Judaism. If you dig down into our foundations deeply enough, you discover the Jew. That is not only a spiritual truth, but also a historical fact. Jesus was a Jew—100%, full-blooded, full-fledged Hebrew. This was in God’s plan. That is why He called Abraham and, through him and his wife Sarah, established the Jewish nation. Through this Jewish bloodline would come the promised Messiah. No other nation or ethnic people on earth at that time were worthy of that honor. It had to be a brand new people living and worshiping under the law of Jehovah God.
From that point, everything should have run smoothly, but it didn’t. Israel had her problems with sin and idolatry; plus she had her national enemies who also were responsible in part for her sins. You see, Satan did not retire when God cast him out of Heaven. He knew something big lay up ahead, all of which would be to the glory of God. So he never missed an opportunity to try sidetracking every move he thought was God’s. And, without question, his special target throughout the Old Testament era was the Jewish people — the children of Israel. He didn’t want to merely harass them or make them suffer. He wanted desperately to annihilate them—wipe them off the face of the earth. He is still trying to do that today.
And that brings us to a special time in history when Satan almost succeeded. It was in the period between the Testaments, specifically 168 BC. Something happened that culminated into a celebration known as Hanukkah, an 8-day long holiday celebrated by the Jews to this day. And because of Hanukkah we have Christmas. And if there had never been a Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas!
In the period I referred to between the Testaments, the children of Israel were under the iron rule of the Syrian king named Antiochus. Not only did Antiochus subject the Jews to a life of suffering, but he was also openly determined to destroy the very foundation and unique identity of Judaism. He prevented the Jews from ever using the Temple, but he didn’t stop there. He forced them to abandon every phase of their religion. He banned Sabbath, circumcisions, all worship of Jehovah God, and all traditions that dated back to Moses. He destroyed all of the writings of the scribes that he could locate. He erected idols all over the Temple, including in the Holy of Holies. Then as the ultimate act of desecration of God’s temple, he sacrificed a pig on the altar of God.
The Jews were totally defeated and demoralized. This was one unique time in Jewish history when the enemy came within a fraction of destroying all traces of a recognizable Jewish culture. And any chance for a promised Messiah to be born into Judaism would have vanished.
But in 168 BC, at the height of the reign of Antiochus, there was an aged Jewish priest named Mattathias who one day struck down and killed one of Antiochus’ commissioners and an apostate Jew, who were in the process of offering up heathen sacrifices in the temple. Then he leveled the altar and escaped with his five sons into the wilderness. He organized a guerrilla band to oppose Antiochus. Two of his sons were killed in the process, and Mattathias died shortly thereafter.
But the eldest son, Judas, took over. Judas and his guerrilla band defeated every military unit Antiochus sent against them. During this time Judas won the name “Macabbee,” which means “the hammerer.” Within three years, Judas Maccabee and his band of Jewish guerrillas miraculously recaptured the city of Jerusalem and the temple.
They promptly set about destroying every semblance of heathen presence. They thoroughly cleansed the temple and rededicated it to Jehovah God and to the worship of Him alone.
The temple was rededicated on the 25th day of the Jewish month of “Kislev,” which corresponds exactly to our month of December. The name Hanukkah means “dedication.” The celebration is also referred to as “The Feast of Dedication,” and the “Festival of Lights.” The common Hebrew phrase connected with Hanukkah is “Nes Gadoy Haya Sham,” which means: “A great miracle happened here.” Truly, it was a great miracle: Judaism was saved from oblivion.
In actual fact, there are two miracles that link Hanukkah and Christmas, and understanding them will raise your joyful appreciation of both. First, there was the preservation of the Jewish people. Had Antiochus been successful, the Jews and Judaism would have gone the route of all the other nations that are today nothing more than archeological history. (e.g. Philistines, Amalakites, etc.) There would not have been a chosen nation for Christ to be born into. So whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s saving power, remember Hanukkah and His loving power for the Maccabees: all odds against them, yet they miraculously prevailed. He is the same God, who today delivers His people, Jew and Gentile.
The second miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of lights. Antiochus and his thugs had extinguished the Seven-branch Menorah that was to burn in the temple continuously. The victorious Jews searched for oil to rekindle this sacred flame. They found only enough for one day, and it would take eight days to get more. In their excitement to rekindle the flame, they didn’t wait. They lit it with only one day’s supply of oil. Miraculously it burned continually for eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight full days, and why a nine branch candelabra is used in the celebration. The “Shamash,” or servant candle is lit first; then it lights all the other candles one at a time each night for the eight nights. On the eighth night the full candelabra is brilliantly aglow.
John 10 tells us that Jesus went up to the temple at the Feast of Dedication. Isn’t it appropriate that He would choose that moment to declare, “I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”? (John 8:12.)
Like the “Shamash,” the Servant Candle (Jesus) lights our way and sends His Holy Spirit to ignite us, to fire us up, so we can shine His light into a dark world.
So the miracle of preservation made Christmas possible, and the miracle of light reminds us of the prophet’s voice: “He shall be a light unto the Gentiles … and His salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).
Finally, there is the common theme that links Hanukkah and Christmas, and it is that of “God with us – Immanuel.” There is a traditional Hanukkah hymn that reads like this: “Rock of ages, let our song praise thy saving power; thou amidst the raging foe, were our sheltering tower; furious they assailed us; by thy arm you availed us; and thy word broke their sword when our own strength failed us!”
God has promised to be with us, His people, in every endeavor of our lives, and this promise was forever sealed in the Name the prophets chose to call Messiah. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).
Jesus was born to die and then rise up victoriously. Born to light our way and make us lights. Born to be worshiped and adored by Jews and Gentiles alike. He is the Hope of Hanukkah and the Christ of Christmas.
These two holidays share their significance in the person of Y’shua, Jesus, our Rock of Ages.
“What will Christmas bring, Mom?”
“Why, Son, ’twill bring you lots of toys and joys.”
“What else will Christmas bring, Mom?”
“Well, fun and games with other girls and boys.”
“But later on in life, Mom,
Will Christmas mean a lot when I am grown?”
“Oh, yes, it will mean more, Son.
For as you grow, a great truth you’ll be shown.
“You’ll learn that Jesus came, Son,
Not just to be a babe in manger sweet,
But to grow up a strong man,
Horrible death and suffering to meet.
“He came to take our sin, Son
And pay the price for it on Calvary.
So God could look upon us all
And shout, ‘From sin and all its curse you’re free!’”
“But I love the little babe, Mom.
I don’t want to think He died for me.”
“That’s what makes Christmas grand, Son:
That Jesus came to die and set us free.”
“You mean, the little baby, Mom?
He had to die and never live again?”
“No, Son, on Resurrection Day,
He rose victorious o’er death for all men.
“This truth of Christmas time, Son,
I think you now begin to understand:
It was the birth of death to sin,
And of eternal life for every man.”
Christmas giving isn’t about money. Nor is it about keeping up with the neighbors. Real Christmas giving is about sharing something from ourselves that will bless other people, and hopefully, will keep on blessing them (keep on giving) for a long time to come.
Many years ago, I read this story, originally printed in Guidepost Magazine — and currently featured in an anthology of articles entitled A Guidepost Treasure of Faith (© 1970 by Guidepost Associated, Inc.). It blessed me so much that I have retold it multiple times over the years.
I’m sharing it here in the hope that it will inspire others to recognize that every one of us has something special within ourselves that will meet the needs of someone else. Give something of yourself this Christmas. You may feel that what you have to give is very small, but the Lord can multiply it and cause it to produce a large and lasting blessing in the lives of others. He did in the true-life story below:
“In Pittsburgh during the last century, a retired Army man, Colonel Anderson, became concerned about some underprivileged boys who had no opportunity to own or read good books. The Colonel, a man of small means, unfortunately wasn’t in a position to give books to these boys.
The Colonel, however, did have a fair-sized library of his own, and so he invited these boys to come up and borrow anything they liked.
Andy, an immigrant boy who made $25 monthly as a telegraph clerk, leaped at this chance. Each week he would return one book and borrow another. Then after supper he and his mother would read aloud to each other.
The youthful borrower never forgot this kindness.
Today, thousands of Americans enjoy free libraries — the gift of that grateful man — Andrew (Andy) Carnegie.”
What is it YOU have to give?
Be sure to visit the Christmas Blog — “Merry Christmas World.”
(A Guidepost Treasury of Faith, p. 209).
” . . . but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” John 14:31
Well, Christmas has come and gone. And, hopefully, we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ during this most festive of holidays. But let’s not stop with celebrating His birth. Let’s look anew at the reason for that birth. We find that reason in the words from our text scripture above: “. . . that the world may know that I love the Father.”
With these words, Jesus is personally explaining to His disciples the reason He agreed to be born as a human being and become the sacrifice for man’s sin. Until the reality of these words sank into my heart during a time of meditation one day, I had always believed that Jesus had been willing to go through the terrible crucifixion and separation from His holy Father just because He loved me so much. I had thought His love for us, the people He had created, had compelled Him to that cruel cross.
But this verse forced me to come face to face with the truth. It wasn’t love for us that caused Jesus to pay the awful price. Rather, it was His love for His Father: “That the world may know that I love the Father . . . even so I do.”
Now, to be sure, it was the Father’s love for us that caused Him to send Jesus. But it was Jesus’ love for the Father that caused Him to obey and carry out the plan. Indeed, love for the Father instigated and controlled absolutely everything that Jesus, the Son, did. We were the fortunate recipients of that beautiful obedience, but we were not the cause.
Most assuredly, as God, His love for us moved Him to compassion, but His love for the Father moved Him to obedience. He spoke and acted, not out of His own compassion, but only as He felt the Father speak and act in compassion. He tells us that repeatedly during His ministry. Because He was determined to be a continuously obedient vessel, He never acted or reacted because of what He saw or felt personally, but because He felt the Father’s leading and wanted to please Him.
That truth seems so simple, but when it finally settled deeply in my consciousness, it brought me to a new level of enlightenment concerning Jesus and what moved and controlled Him. Not only did I see Jesus in greater revelation, but consequently I was confronted with a greater understanding of what it means for me to be “like Jesus.” I realized more than ever that being like Him was much more than obeying commandments, walking in forgiveness, loving people, and reaching out to meet their needs in the power of God. Those endeavors are, to be sure, part of the Christ-like character. But the overriding requirement for being Christ-like, indeed the very root of Christ-likeness, is love of the Father.
Love of the Father must be our primary reason also for doing or refusing to do anything. Certainly, the right words and the right actions will get a job done or solve a problem many times. But speaking or acting because we believe it is what Jesus would do, or even because we love those whose needs we are trying to meet by those words and actions, never makes us one with the nature of Jesus. No, beloved Christian, only a passionate, all-consuming love of our Father God will bring us fully into oneness of nature and character with Jesus.
When we love the Father so much that we live to please Him, even hunger to please Him, we have truly entered into the nature of Jesus Himself. When no circumstance and no person moves us to action, but rather the leading from our Heavenly Father, Whom to please is more important than life itself, then we will have come to that place where Jesus is truly living His life in us.
Then the world will “know that we love the Father, and as the Father gives us commandment, even so we do.” They will see the same love of the Father that they saw in Jesus – a love that leads us to an obedience so supernatural that it compels those watching to turn to a God Who merits such a love.
Dear Christians, may it be our constant prayer that the love of the Father will be our only motivation in every facet of our lives from this day forward.
Just a note to let you all know that for the rest of this month, I’ll be spending most of my time at my “Merry Christmas, World!” site — doing Christmas. Most of what you’ll see on here during that time will be re-blogged from there.
So if you look for me or comment here and don’t hear from me, just hop over there, and you’re sure to find me.
Come and visit, prepared to share. Remember there is a special page just for you to share anything you’d like to share about your own Christmas — family traditions, national traditions, memories, recipes, favorites of all kinds. Here’s the link:
When you get there, if you look over in the right-hand widget area, you’ll see the page “Christmas In My World.” Click on that page and share whatever you like.
These words are familiar to most of us as part of a Christmas carol — a song we hear only during the month of December each year and then put away with all the other Christmas trappings. But this song, especially this particular line, has so much to say to the human race beyond “Merry Christmas.” The enormous revelation contained in these lines is a vital and eternal truth that affects the lives of every man and woman born into the world.
After the human race’s rebellion against their Father God, the whole world lay in deep darkness and the death grip of sin and its resulting curse. Even man’s intellect had become twisted — a prisoner of error and vain imaginations. The souls of human beings had absolutely no concept of their value or of the unfathomable love for them still in the heart of their Creator.
They were confused, afraid, tormented by the evils let loose in this world by their own sin. They were without escape, without hope. Until HE came. God Himself — who had created them, born their betrayal, but loved them beyond it — offered HIMSELF in payment for them. He purchased their freedom from their own self-made dungeon with the only source of payment rich enough to be acceptable — Himself.
Only then did the human race realize their true value. Only then did the human soul begin to get a glimpse of its own worth. Only then did man begin to understand how truly immeasurable — how priceless — his very existence. Only then did any of the human race experience truth and love. Darkness fled. Ignorance fled. Fear fled. Death fled.
With the appearance of Jesus Christ, to fulfill His appointed work of pouring out His own blood to release men from their own sin, light burst through the darkness and revealed the value of the human soul in all its glory — as surely as a bright light causes the facets of a diamond to burst forth in shafts of light that reveal its value for all to see.
” … He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”
HE has appeared! FOR YOU! And He didn’t come with the expectation that we would celebrate that coming only once a year. No, He came so that we could understand how precious we are to Him every single day of our lives. When we’re good; when we’re bad; when we’ve got it all together; when we’re confused and going under for the umpteenth time. He came when we were totally rebellious and unlovable, and that says it all: it says you are the most important thing in the universe to Him
So don’t wait until next Christmas to think about His coming. He comes to you continually. He comes to whisper love words and life-giving truth. So today — right now — open up your heart anew, and let your soul reach out and receive the revelation of how priceless you are to the God of the universe!
I live in Illinois, and Azaleas bloom ONLY in April or May in our region. I have several Azalea bushes in my yard, and I have never seen one bloom during any of the winter months at all. But this year, in the middle of December, this one white Azalea started blooming all of a sudden. I thought perhaps the blooms would hold out for a day or two and then be frozen too much to hang on. But these blooms kept coming and lasted for almost two weeks. You see them here as the background for my Christmas lights, strung along my front porch railing. I snapped the picture at night, so you cannot see the bush well, but you can recognize the blooms. This event was most definitely UNUSUAL.