Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” but a celebration of God’s provision for his people and a call to resist the allure of assimilating into a faithless culture. As a Christian pastor, I am well aware that the best person to offer a brief overview of the history and meaning of Hanukkah isn’t me… so please watch this instead.
I get asked by multiple people every year, “What do you think about Hanukkah? As Christians, what should we think about it?”
Jesus Celebrated Hanukkah
In John 10:22-24 records Jesus going to the Temple during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah means “Dedication”). To read more, see this article by Associates for Biblical Research: Jesus Celebrates Hanukkah.
“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. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”
(John 10:22–24 ESV)
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Christians should celebrate Hanukkah, but it clearly indicates that Christians can with a clear conscience. When we consider the meaning of Hanukkah (watch the above video if you haven’t yet, it’s very good and helpful), there are two main ways that Christians can also benefit.
God is Faithful to His People
God’s people are never left without hope. We worship a God who provides for and protects his people. We only need to look at the Jewish people throughout history to remember that God’s provision and protection doesn’t equal “prosperity.” Instead, it means that even in the midst of routine persecutions, God’s children will not be crushed.
As Christians, we need to be respectful of the heritage of the Jewish people. At the same time, the New Testament describes Christians as “ingrafted branches” who are made one with Israel as the chosen people of God (Romans 11:17-24). Because we identify with Israel as the people of God, we have much to learn from their festivals and traditions. Even though Hanukkah isn’t commanded in Scripture, it can serve as a wonderful testament of God’s ongoing faithfulness.
God’s People are Called to Faithfulness
Even as God is faithful to his people; his people are called to faithfulness to God. How should the people of God respond when the Temple of God was desecrated… especially considering this was still during the time when Temple sacrifices were necessary for the forgiveness of sin? The Maccabean Revolt was Israel’s attempt to restore the holiness and purification of the Temple. Remember, this is why it’s called the “Feast of Dedication,” because they were seeking to rededicate the Temple to the LORD.
While Christians do not rely on the Temple for worship or forgiveness of sin, we share in the struggle against a culture who seeks to assimilate us into their values and worldview. Rather than forming an armed revolt, we embrace the example of Jesus Christ, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter. The apostles were all martyred for the sake of the gospel. Nearly every hero of the Christian faith throughout history experienced suffering and opposition because of their unwavering commitment to the gospel.
Christians are able to remember the message of Hanukkah as a reminder of both God’s provision and as a call for our faithfulness to God.