Many have been asking me if we as Christians should celebrate Hanukkah. This blog is in response to those questions and will hopefully whet your appetite to begin this observance for yourself and you family. Those of you with children will find that your kids can especially appreciate it: they get eight days of gift-giving instead on one.
In 167 BCE the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus, set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on three of their recognized laws and customs. All three maintain Jewish cultural integrity and were thus threats to the Greek culture.
An Israeli leader named Matityahu and his five sons, known as the Maccabees, started a revolt against Antiochus and succeeded in evicting their oppressors. The victory was a miracle on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today. Having regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews wanted to immediately sanctify and rededicate it. In order to do so, they needed ritually pure olive oil to re-light the Menorah in the Temple. Only a single cruse of oil was found however; this was enough to burn for just one day. For ritual purification laws, they needed oil sufficient for eight days until new, ritually pure olive oil could be produced. A miracle occurred and the one-days-worth of oil burned for eight days.
Jesus and Hanukkah
Also known as the Holiday of Lights, Hanukkah provides a wonderful time of the year to remember and commemorate the great miracle that God has done for all of us, by giving us new light and life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And because Jesus celebrated Hanukkah at the Temple, as Christians we can celebrate Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights”, as we rededicate our lives to Christ and acknowledge Him as the perfect and true light of this world.
In fact, Jesus preached three sermons in which He declared Himself the “light of the world,” and all three could have been during Hanukkah.
Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” (John 12:35-36).
Just before Jesus announced that He was the Light of the world, He had shed His light upon the consciences of those who accused the adulteress (John 8.) John also records Jesus healing a blind man (9:1-12) at about the same time that Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the world (8:12 and 9:5).
But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! (John 9:5-7)
Christians and Hanukkah
Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable and even suggested that we as Christians celebrate Hanukkah as well. For 2010, Hanukkah is observed from December 1-9. Below is a suggested “first” observance of Hanukkah that each of us can follow.
Observance of Hanukkah
I suggest that you read the story of Hanukkah so that everyone will have some understanding of it. It is found in 1 Mac. 4:52–59 which is an apocryphal book found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. You can also find it online. (By the way, these apocryphal books are not dangerous to read; they are simply non-God-inspired books but they DO bring great historical information … especially concerning times between the Old Testament and the New Testament.)
1 Mac. 4:52–59 – “Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (NRSV).
In observance, we will light Hanukkah candles for eight days. These are held in a special Hanukkah menorah that has nine candles spaces instead of the typical menorah that has seven. Eight of these spaces are of identical height. The ninth space is probably of a different height and is reserved for the “helper” candle that is use to light all others.
Two blessings (three on the first night) will be said each night prior to (but during the time of) lighting the candle(s).
The first blessing thanks God for the commandment to “kindle the Hanukkah lights.” We therefore recite the blessing before lighting the candles, and then proceed to carry out the commandment.
The second blessing praises God for the miracle the candles publicize, and is therefore said as the candles are being lit.
Hold the lit “helper” candle in your right hand and say:
1. On the first night of Hanukkah, this blessing is added signifying that it is the first time that the Hanukkah lights have been lit this season:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who gave us life and kept us and delivered us to this time.
2. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
3. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who performed miracles for Your chosen people at this season, in days past.
Lighting the Menorah
On the first night of Hanukkah, a single candle (or oil wick) is lit, on the far right side of the menorah. On each successive night an additional candle is added, from right to left (two candles lit on the second night, three on the third…) until finally, on the eighth night, all eight candles are lit. It is customary to light from left to right, with the newest candle lit first. You should allow the candles to burn themselves out.
The candles are lit by a “shamash” or helper candle, which after being used to light the other candles, takes its own special place on the menorah – usually in a place slightly set apart and/or higher from the rest.
· While lighting the candles themselves, Hanerot Halalu is traditionally recited.
· Once the candles have been lit, Maoz Tzur is traditionally sung.
When To Light
The candles are lit starting at nightfall, and should burn for at least half an hour. On Friday afternoon, the candles are traditionally lit before sunset, to avoid lighting on the Sabbath. By putting longer candles in the menorah (or thick Shabbat candles on tin foil), the lights will still be burning after it grows dark.
Where To Light
The glowing Hanukkah candles are meant to advertise the holiday’s miracles. At home, place the lit menorah in the window where passers-by can see its light.
While lighting the candles themselves, Hanerot Halalu is traditionally recited.
We light these lights
For the miracles and the wonders,
For the redemption and the battles
That you made for our forefathers
In those days at this season,
Through your holy priests.
During all eight days of Chanukah
These lights are sacred
And we are not permitted to make
Ordinary use of them,
But only to look at them;
In order to express thanks
And praise to Your great Name
For your miracles, Your wonders
And your salvations.
Once the candles have been lit, Maoz Tzur is traditionally sung. Maybe you would like to read them instead, at least for your first observances.
· O mighty stronghold of my salvation,
to praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
the dedication of the Altar.
· My soul had been sated with troubles,
my strength has been consumed with grief.
They had embittered my life with hardship,
with the calf-like kingdom's bondage.
But with His great power
He brought forth the treasured ones,
Pharaoh's army and all his offspring
Went down like a stone into the deep.
· To the holy abode of His Word He brought me.
But there, too, I had no rest
And an oppressor came and exiled me.
For I had served aliens,
And had drunk benumbing wine.
Scarcely had I departed
At Babylon's end Zerubabel came.
At the end of seventy years I was saved.
· To sever the towering cypress
sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha,
But it became [a snare and] a stumbling block to him
and his arrogance was stilled.
The head of the Benjaminite You lifted
and the enemy, his name You obliterated
His numerous progeny - his possessions -
on the gallows You hanged.
· Greeks gathered against me
then in Hasmonean days.
They breached the walls of my towers
and they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks
a miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight - eight days
established for song and jubilation
· Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation -
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants' blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.
If you would like more information, Google “Hanukkah Messianic” or try this site: http://bethhamashiach.com/Hanakah.htm
 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible : New Living Translation., 2nd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), Jn 9:1–8.