Known throughout the world as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is the celebration of lights and victory. The story dates back over two centuries before the beginning of Christianity and has many variations of tradition and methods for celebration.
The story of Hanukkah reminds us of the time over 2,500 years ago when the Syrian king did his best to make the Jewish people worship the gods of the Greeks. To the Jewish people’s great dismay, King Antiochus placed a statue of himself before the families and ordered them to bow down before him.
As we who read the Bible today know, the Ten Commandments forbids any Jewish person to worship a false god or idol. Thus, the Jewish people refused to bow down. Even more so, a small group of Jews who were known as the Maccabees rebelled and began what would be a three-year battle. During the fight, they recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians but lost the Temple in the process. What were the Jewish people to do?
The Temple was the center of life, and a symbol of God’s word, promises and purpose for the Jewish people. God was not far off from his people. After cleaning and repairing the Temple, the Jewish people wanted to rededicate the holy place to the Lord God. They wished to do so by lighting the Menorah lamp.
However, there was only one small jar of oil left in the temple. The Jewish people were saddened by the lack of oil, but trusted in God that they would be provided for. The lamp burned miraculously for eight days! Today Hanukkah is celebrated by the lighting of a menorah, or hanukkiah, here in Israel and in Jewish homes around the world. Children play joyful games with a dreidel, and remember the great miracle of our Lord God.