Posted by: cindybythesea | December 7, 2009

let your light so shine

    I have a confession to make, I have a favorite December holiday and it isn’t Christmas. Oh, yes, I like the warm fuzzies of the holiday that come mostly from having lived in a cold climate most of my life; colored lights on snow, carolers at  the door, and the sound of sleigh bells in the crisp winter air.  But, what I don’t like is the commercialism of the season which in recent years seems to have begun earlier and earlier.  These days, Christmas decorations are up in department stores before the last of the  Halloween pumpkins have been sold, as eager merchants seek to get a jump on the season.   But, for me, in spite of all the commercialism, I’ve found some thing which is much more satisfying to my soul and speaks even greater to the baby born in the stable, that “Christmas eve” long ago.
Every year during the Jewish month of Kislev (December on our calendar) Hanukkah is celebrated.  Hanukkah is an 8 day observance which commemorates the purification and re-dedication of the Jewish temple in 165 B.C.   Why is this important?  It’s important because the temple was the center of Jewish worship and  three years prior, the temple had been defiled by the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes who  entered the temple and erected an idol to Baal  there, also sacrificing a pig (an unclean animal) on the altar of God and demanding that he be worshiped as god.  He also declared that Jews could not read the Torah, circumcise their males or keep the Sabbath.  Three years later, on the 25th of Kislev, the temple was liberated by a revolt led by one of the priests by the name of Mattathias.  When the priests entered the temple, it was found that only one vessel of oil remained for lighting the menorah in the holy place and it would take a full eight days to consecrate new oil.  Once the menorah is lit it must burn continually, the light cannot be extinguished.  With but one vessel of oil to light the menorah and consecrate the temple, the oil which should have lasted but one day, burned for eight days until new oil could be consecrated.  This was a wonderful miracle that is commemorated to this day.  In honor of this great miracle, the Jews instituted what is known as the Fesitval of Lights.  During  Hanukkah each year, a 9 branched candelabra known as a Hannukiah is lit, eight branches for each night the oil burned and one branch which holds a shamash or servant candle  which is used to light  all of the other candles.  When viewed apart from the totality of other scripture and history itself, the miracle of Hanukkah may seem to pale in comparison to the glitz and glamour of commercialized Christmas.  But, when viewed a little more closely,  it proves a wonderful picture of God’s eternal plan for His people.
Many spiritual themes emerge from this story, two of the major ones of which are oil and light.  The Menorah that burned continually in the Holy sanctuary represents God’s eternal light.  Oil in the scripture is always  representative of the Holy Spirit  and represents the Holy Spirit in the lives of us who are believers. The Shamash, the servant candle represents Yeshua, Jesus the light of the world from whom all of the other “candles”are lit.   Jesus said, I am the light of the world, who ever follows me will not walk in darkness”  John 8:12   And it is also said of  we who are believers,  “Let  your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven“. Matt. 5:16
Did you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th?  It’s true, he was not born on December 25,  but, he was conceived most likely December 8, 4 BC which was during Hanukkah, most likely the first day.   Which, if he were conceived during December then he would by means of simple math, have been born  the following year in September.  In fact, scholars have determined that Jesus was born on the 15th of Tishri during the Feast of Trumpets which would be September 11 3 BC on our modern calendar.  You can read more about this fascinating discovery here:  What’s important about this, well, just about everything!
It cannot be stated enough, the Bible is a Jewish book and is best understood in the Jewish context in which it was written.   God, you see,  is working off a prophetic calendar centered around the Jewish feasts of which he instituted.  (Leviticus 23)  For Jesus to be conceived during Hanukkah speaks of oil, the symbol of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed Mary resulting  in his conception.  And his birth at the Feast of Trumpets (the fall festivals) culminates with him being circumcised during the Feast of Tabernacles, which is The Messianic and Kingly Feast and has everything to do with God dwelling with us.  Remember, it was said, “And you shall call His name Immanuel, which means God with us”.  Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.
It is also interesting to note, that although a late comer in terms of Jewish observances and not part of the original  7 feasts outlined in Leviticus 23, it is no less important and may speak more specifically to gentiles in its typology.  Consider this –  in John 10, we see Jesus walking in the portico of Solomons temple during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), so, we know that he was there and observed it.   It is  important, when studying the Bible to keep in mind that it IS a Jewish book and as such provides the framework from which all of  scripture finds  its context.   In John 10:22 the Jewish leaders of the day gathered around him while he was at the temple,  they questioned him and how he answered them is telling.  What they said was this, “How long will you keep us in suspense, if you are the Messiah, tell us plainly”  What Jesus answered back was this, “I tell you, but, you do not believe, the miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but, you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  I give eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my hand.  I and the Father are One”.  Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him (any one who blasphemed God by Jewish law was to be stoned – the Jewish leaders understood his claim to diety perfectly well).   Jesus, by answering their questions the way he did, referenced Hanukkah, for Hanukkah is all about miracles, which is something the Jewish leaders would have understood.  By virtue of his miracle, just as Hanukkah was a miracle, the work of God in Yeshua, Jesus was made manifest for all to see.  By not hearing or listening to his voice, they rejected him, but, Jesus said, the sheep who do know him, hear his voice and follow him and can never be snatched out of his hand.  The word snatched used here, is very closely related to the same word used for the rapture of the church when the church is snatched from the earth  at the start of the tribulation and taken into heaven.  Might this be a veiled reference to a Hanukkah rapture????
Remember Hanukkah is primarily an oil and lights story;  Jesus, the light of the world, the ten virgins,(which represent the church)  five of whom have oil and five who do not.
Of interest from more recent history which lends strong credibility to the prophetic implication of the Fesitval is one which took place this past century on the even of Hanukkah 1917.  On December 11, of that year, Jerusalem was taken from Turkish control by the British which by way of the Balfour Declaration  made it possible for the Jewish state to be born in 1947. (Formally, May 14, 1948). 
Hanukkah is rich with prophetic symbolism.  The baby that was conceived by the Holy Spirit during the Festival of Lights, would be the same baby born on the Jewish Feast of Trumpets and circumcised 8 days later on the Feast of Tabernacles.
For me, I am reminded as I light the Hanukkah candles that Jesus the light of the world was conceived and born that I might have light and life.  And through his birth, death and resurrection, it is his light through the power of the Holy Spirit that lights each one of ours.  It is traditional  at Hanukkah to place the Hanukkah menorah in a window where it can be lit for all to see. 
          “Let your light so shine before men, that men may see you good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16. 
Happy Hanukkah everyone!

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