Friday, December 12, 2008

Hanukkah is not for Jews Only

Christian people everywhere should join with their Jewish friends in celebrating Hanukkah. Also called the “Feast of Lights” or the "Feast of Dedication," Perhaps most Christians lightly dismiss Hanukkah as if it were only a Jewish substitute for Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Hanukkah tradition was already 200 years old when Jesus went to Jerusalem in winter for the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah.

It is as much a part of our Judeo-Christian heritage as are the stories of Abraham, Moses and David.The full account is found in the apocryphal books of the Maccabees, which fill the historical gap between the Old and new Testaments of the Christian faith.

Antiochus IV sat on the Greco-Syrian throne and he was hell-bent on ridding the world of the Jewish monotheistic faith in Jehovah God. The atrocities and blasphemies he committed against the Jewish people were unthinkable. It was a holocaust.

All vestiges of Judaism were to be eradicated. Any Jewish practice or worship was a capital offense. Even Jewish mothers who circumcised their sons were put to death and their corpses raised on poles in public display, with their infants hanging around their necks. Worst of all, the temple in Jerusalem was polluted and called the temple of Jupiter Olympius. II Maccabees 6:4-5 says “the temple was filled with riot and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the circuit of the holy places … The altar also was filled with profane things, which the law forbiddeth.”

Refusing to bow to the pagan Syrian idols, a few rebels fled to the Judean hills. From these a young warrior named Judas Maccabeus (The Hammer) arose as the leader of the first band of guerrilla warriors in history.

Israel’s tattered forces were few in number and ill equipped to wage war. After three years of fighting it looked as if they would soon be totally defeated. They faced the best equipped and most highly trained army then on the face of the earth, under General Lysias.For every half dozen Jewish guerrillas, there were a hundred Syrians, including well disciplined foot soldiers, mounted horsemen, and seemingly invincible spearmen astride armored elephants. The odds against Judas Maccabeus’ band were as great as they had been against the defenseless Hebrew nation when the Red Sea lay in front of them and Pharaoh’s army was in hot pursuit to their rear. They had no more of a fighting chance than did Joshua when he marched around the mighty walled city of Jericho. In comparison to General Lysias, Judah must have look like a shepherd boy with a sling facing a giant in armor.

Like David before him, Judas the Maccabee realized that “the battle is the Lord’s.” The Hammer cried out to this angry men, “Do not be afraid of them. In the sight of heaven there is no difference between the deliverance by many or by few.”

That day, the 25th day of Kislev, 165 B.C., will forever be remembered. It was a massacre. The Syrian forces were annihilated; the city of Jerusalem was recovered. Maccabeus and his company cleansed the temple and rebuilt the altar.According to the Hanukkah legend, only a one day supply of holy oil could be found to light the lampstand required in rededicating the altar. It would take eight days to prepare more. Miraculously, that one day’s supply of oil lasted the entire eight days. God had confirmed his people’s worship in a supernatural manner.

Christians, Jews and people everywhere who cherish the freedom of worship should never forget the story of Hanukkah.

1 comment:

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