It’s Christmas time, but Hanukkah comes first. Tonight on the evening of December 12th, the first light of Hanukkah will be lit beginning the eight day festival of lights. As Christians, we don’t always pay attention to this holiday, but we should for several reasons. The first is that this was a celebration in which Jesus participated. John’s gospel relays an account of Jesus in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, (John 10:22-23).
However, there are other lessons to be learned from this observance. This time has a long history of significance in Judaism. The first day of Hanukkah, the 25th of Kislev, was the day the construction of the wilderness was completed, it was the day also began a celebration of the completion of Nehemiah’s wall. But the reason the day is marked is not any of those things. It is because of the Maccabees.
While the Jews had experienced trials during the war of the empires over Mesopotamia, including the Babylonians, the Medes and the Persians, when the Greeks conquered the area, things began to take a turn. Unlike other overlords who allowed them to continue to follow the decrees of Yahweh and worship at the Temple, Antiochus Ephiphanes was determined to force the Jews to conform to the Greek mode of worship.
A culture war ensued. The majority of the population went along with it. One form of worship seemed to be just as good as another, and it gained them favor with the Greeks. It was conform or be persecuted, and most took the easy road. There were two groups that did not. The first were the separatists which came to be known as the Essenes and whose writings were found in the caves of Qumran. They did not conform, but they separated from the Judean community. They went off on their own in the desert and waited for the Messiah to come.
The second group took a different route. They stood up and fought. It seems they took a little time to strategize and gather allies, but the point of decision came when Antiochious sacrificed a pig in the Temple itself. That was the point of no return, and the rebels led by Judah Maccabee fought back. The desecration by the Greeks took place on the 25th of Kislev in 167 B.C. The war waged for three years, but in the end, the Maccabees prevailed.
The temple had to be purified from the desecration. Worship was resumed three years to the day that it had been put to an end. However, there was a problem. The menorah, the sign of the presence of God among the people, was to remain lit and there was only enough oil to last one day. They went forward in faith and the first day passed. The lamp continued to burn. The second day passed, still the light shone. Then came the third, fourth, fifth, six, and seventh days. The light continued to burn provisioned solely by God until after the eighth day, the new supply of oil arrived.
A Great Miracle Happened Here
Hanukkah is a story to remember. Not only for God’s miraculous supply of oil, but because it is a reminder that God rewards those who are faithful and have a pure heart. The Maccabees were up against impossible odds, a ragtag group against the might of the Greek Empire. It was David versus Goliath, Houston versus Santa Anna, Altuve versus Bellinger . . . But they held their ground through to victory.
Hanukkah was remembered. Each year, the victory and the provision of God was remembered with an eight day festival. The observance was set, but the method was debated. Matters of religious observance were as hotly debated in Jesus’ day as it is in ours, and at times, Jesus weighed in on the matters under discussion. For example, in the question on divorce between the rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai, Jesus sided with Shammai that it should only occur in instances of adultery ( Mark 10:11, Matthew 19:9) compared to Hillel’s position that a man could divorce his wife for practically any reason at all.
Hanukkah was another area where the two sages disagreed. At the time, there was a debate over how the lighting of the candles should be observed. Hillel thought that it should begin with one light, increasing by one each day. Shammai argued that all eight candles should be lit on the first day and the light decreased each day of the festival.
I like to think that Jesus sided with Hillel on this one. He talked a lot about the light and the lamp, that it should not be hid under a bushel, that we are to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16), and that we are to remove darkness from our life until we have no “dark corners” and our whole life is “radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” ( Luke 11:36 NLT )
Jesus urged us to increase the light, not to diminish it.
The Dawn is Breaking
The last few months of 2017 have been marked by the breakthrough of light. Things hidden in the dark for years, for decades, have been exposed and justice is coming due. So it is interesting to me that this year the day commemorating the return of the Light is also a decision day for some of us in the U.S. By the time the first light of Hanukkah is lit, Alabama voters will have made a decision on which side they stand.
Will they make a stand and say, “No Moore” or will they turn a blind eye and allow the manipulation, the lies, and the abuse to continue?
I know this is easy for me to say this. I do not live in Alabama. It is not my vote. But I promise you, when it is my vote, I will not vote for those who support the abusers. I will not vote for Ted Cruz again.
A Message to Ted Cruz
Senator Cruz, I voted for you for Senator. I voted for you in the Presidential primary. You will not get my vote again.
It would have been enough that you voted to confirm a person to chart the course of the education of the children of the nation, who has openly committed to destroy the very thing she was put in charge of. That would have been enough.
Your vote for and contribution to this absolute abomination of a tax bill would have been enough to never vote for you again.
But your hypocrisy in supporting Roy Moore while calling for Democrats caught in the same act to step down is not only a betrayal and a misrepresentation of the people you were elected to serve, but it is a betrayal and a misrepresentation of the Lord you say you serve.
Before you dismiss what I have to say as a RINO and faux Christian. Let me say this so you know exactly where I am coming from. I accepted Jesus as my Savior at seven. I attended a private Christian school for six years and church all my life. I have been baptized with both water and the Holy Spirit.
I teach Sunday school every Sunday and read my Bible every day. I have devoted the past two and a half years of my life to learning how to better defend the Christian faith in Houston Baptist University’s graduate program in apologetics.
I am a believer. I am your “white evangelical female voter” and I have identified with the Republican party since I first registered to vote at 18.
I agree with you that preserving life is important and that abortion not only ends one life, but blights the lives of those who remain. I appreciate your support of Israel. But those two issues are not enough to ignore the fact that you, as well as the rest of the Republican party, have abandoned the principles for which the Republican party used to stand.
To use a phrase of C. S. Lewis, you have become “men without chests.”
The power in politics ebbs and flows. Bills pass and are changed. But what is most troubling about the situation we are now in is that you have made it a point to identify yourself as a Christian. You have said you stand with God and that is the basis for your decision making. That is the worst part about this because you are misrepresenting Him.
We live in a culture that doesn’t know Him and will actually take you at your word that your actions reflect God’s will. Not knowing anything else, they might actually believe that God will ignore corruption and abuse because you are. When you disregard the very credible testimony of the women who have come forward to accuse Roy Moore, not only do you further traumatize them and give him support to continue in his actions, but you are misrepresenting God’s view on the matter.
Jesus valued women and children.
In a time when women had no voice and no value, Jesus valued and respected them. He was not condemning and he gave those that the religious of the day would have killed another chance. He not only allowed but encouraged women to learn from him, which was prohibited in that day. That is why they loved him. That is why they supported his ministry. That is why Mary Magdalene was willing to humble herself at his feet weeping in front of the disapproving apostles. They loved him because He saw them as a person of value and stood for them.
Unlike the majority of the male disciples, the women did not leave him while he hung dying at the cross. While the disciples were hiding out in the upper room, the women were preparing the burial spices. They stayed with him until the very, very, end.
Because of that, they were the first to see the resurrected Jesus and the first to be commissioned to tell others. It is the fact that the first report came from the women that is one of the four strongest evidences for the historicity of the resurrection. That is not a story that would have been fabricated because a woman’s testimony was not considered trustworthy. If it had been made up, it would have been a man that played the primary role.
It seems that things have not changed all that much in the past 2,000 years. Even though the Bible says that “by two or more witnesses, a thing is established,” (Deut 19:15, 2 Cor 13:11) the testimony of eight women does not seem sufficient to many Christian men. One thing has changed though, we can vote.
There are certain things in the political sphere that I will never forget. I will never forget Hillary Clinton insisting on the Today show that the rumors of her husband’s philandering were all just part of some “vast right wing conspiracy.” I will never forget James Carville going on Larry King Live with the weight of the White House behind him and saying of Paula Jones’ accusations, “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”
I will never forget that, and I will never forget the Republicans who sold out women individually and the country as a whole.
To my fellow Christians in Alabama, there are worse things than being a Democrat. Paul even gives a list of those who are worse in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Billy Graham, a Democrat himself, once said, “Let people know where you stand by the way you live.” In this case, let people know where you stand by how you vote. They will not do better until we demand they be better.
Soli Deo Gloria
Update November 2018: As you know, Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in a historic upset. Click here to listen to a podcast interview with Senator Moore on his first year in office and his observations about when political maneuvering comes before servanthood, who is obstructing immigration reform and border security, and his interesting comment that of all people, Trump is uniquely positioned to bring people together . . . if he wants to.