At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (John 10:22-23)
This Gospel text takes place at the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Feast of Lights, or even more famously, “Hanukkah.” (Yes, this means that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah!). In 2017, the first day of Hanukkah begins on December 12.
Hanukkah traces its origins back to the inter-testamental time period. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Syrian general Antiochus IV came to rule the land we know as Israel. Under Antiochus, the pure and true worship of Yahweh was persecuted. Those caught observing the Sabbath, the rite of circumcision, and the avoidance of unclean food were put to death. Mothers who had their babies circumcised were crucified with their babies hanging around their necks. The daily temple sacrifices were replaced with heathen rituals. Hogs were driven into the temple, and their flesh was sacrificed on the altar to Zeus. Orgies took place throughout the temple; ceremonies for the Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication were instituted in place of temple sacrifice. This continued for 2 ˝ years. The temple was desecrated. The Israelites were forced to give up the pure Word of the Lord, or face persecution.
In time, through the Maccabean revolt, the Israelites won their freedom to worship Yahweh as outlined in the Scriptures. In the winter of 164BC, the Israelites reclaimed the temple, cleansed it from the desecration which took place, and reinstituted the former services and sacrifices. The temple was re-dedicated to the Lord: hence, the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah. According to traditional stories, almost all the olive oil reserved for use in the temple had been defiled; there was only enough clean oil to light the temple menorah for one day. That oil supply burned for 8 days, until new and pure oil could be supplied.
How beautifully do the themes of Hanukkah and Advent blend together! With Hanukkah (the Feast of Lights), God supplied light which overcame the darkness of paganism and unbelief. As Advent draws nearer and nearer to Christmas, we come closer and closer to celebrating the birth of Christ, who is the Light of the world. So writes Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2,6).
When Jesus returns in triumph and glory, idolatry and persecution and darkness will not prevail – they will come to an end… and with them all our sorrows, too, will cease, and we will see even greater glory than was ever seen. Therefore, let us pray with John and all the saints in heaven and on earth, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.”
May the Lord bless and keep you throughout this Advent season in His peace, Amen.
-- Pastor Lorenz