‘It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded Him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”’ (John 10:22–24 NLT)
Hanukkah—also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication—is still celebrated today. It’s an annual event and it goes for eight days. It commemorates a great victory and a wondrous miracle. Although the date varies from year to year—because the Hebrew calendar doesn’t line up with our Western secular one—it usually occurs in December. This year it starts on 28 November and ends on 6 December.
About 200 years before Jesus was at the Temple for Hanukkah, the land of Israel was ruled by Greek kings. After Alexander the Great had come and gone, conquering as he went, the generals of his army divided up the territory for themselves after his death. One of them was given Israel as a prize. In the following centuries, Greek culture came to influence the people so much that many of them abandoned the faith. One of the Greek kings began pagan sacrifices in the Temple.
A group of Jews banded together to stop the idolatry. The Maccabees—the hammer—were the leaders of this revolt. Eventually, they recovered Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. This ceremony of dedication (hanuk) was remembered year after year through the lighting of a special nine-branched candlestick. According to a later story, when the Temple was about to be purified it was discovered that there was only enough oil to light the lamps for one day. Yet the oil miraculously burned for eight days. This miracle was why the feast came to be called the Festival of Lights.
Jesus used Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, to point to Himself. As the darkest days of winter approached, He healed the eyesight of a man born blind and, speaking about the sign of the miracle said, ‘I AM the Light of the World.’ (John 8:12 NIV)
But He also said about His disciples at another time, ‘You are the light of the world.’ (Matthew 5:14 NIV)
We are all called to point to the Light of Jesus shining in the darkness. He is the Light of the World and He asks us, through our dedication to Him, to take the glorious brightness of His presence into our home, our community, our nation, our world.
This year, take up His Light and take it to your friends, family and community! Go!