JESUS, Light of the World
Hanukkah – Christmas
Syria and Egypt are allies now – but such was not always the case. In 168 B.C., the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes, Ruler of Syria, came down from the north and attacked Egypt. However, before he could enjoy the spoils of his conquest, he was compelled by powerful Rome to withdraw. Infuriated at this reversal, he unleashed his anger against the small country of Israel. Marching against the city of Jerusalem, Antiochus Epiphanes destroyed a large part of the city and slaughtered men, women and children. He defiled the Jewish Temple built by Solomon by sacrificing a pig on the altar to his god “Zeus Olympius”, and his soldiers carried valuable treasures away from the TempIe.
At the village of Modin, north of Jerusalem, one of the Syrian officers ordered the Jews to sacrifice a pig upon the altar. When one of the Jews started to comply, he was set upon by the priest, Mattathias (Matthew) Maccabee. Simultaneously, his five sons attacked and killed the Syrian soldiers. Mattathias and his sons fled to the Judean hills, fearing retaliation. There, under the leadership of Judas Maccabee, the son of Mattathias, the Jews began one of the most brilliant and courageous guerilla-style battles of all time. This small band grew in number as volunteers swarmed to the hills to join the cause, and within three years this Jewish band drove the Syrian invaders out of the land. Immediately, they turned their attention to the cleansing of the Temple, and to the dismantling of the polluted altar of God. In the year 165 B.C., on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev, the Temple and altar were rededicated, exactly three years to the day after its pollution by Antiochus Epiphanes.
Jewish tradition records that when the heroic Jews set about to rekindle the perpetual light (candle stand), only one cruse of consecrated oil was found. It should have lasted one day but miraculously, it lasted eight days — until new oil could be prepared and consecrated. Today, Jews throughout the world light candles each night during the eight-day celebration of this miracle of God.
IN MANY WAYS, HANUKKAH AND CHRISTMAS ARE SIMILAR – both originated in the same land — Israel, by the same people — the Jews. Both celebrations fall on the same day in their respective months — the 25th day of Kislev — and the 25th day of December. During both observances, gifts are given, and spiritual songs are sung. Both commemorate significant historical events (the rededication of the Temple and the birth of Christ). In both observances, the servant is prominent: The “Shammas” is the “servant” candle used to light the other eight candles on succeeding evenings; and “Messiah”, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister (as a servant), said of Himself AT THE FEAST OF HANUKKAH, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Where Jesus the Christ is exalted — where Jesus the Christ is accepted — where His death, burial, and resurrection are believed — there is light — joy — and hope. THE REAL MESSAGE OF HANUKKAH AND CHRISTMAS IS THAT THERE IS LIGHT TO THOSE WHO WILL RECEIVE IT. Of the Messiah, it is written: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
At this Hanukkah-Christmas season, we would do well to remember that, “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5).
NO MATTER HOW DARK THE NIGHT MAY APPEAR TO BE – FOR THE CHILD OF GOD THERE IS A LIGHT TO LIGHTEN THE WAY.