Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the miracle that occurred at the re-dedication of the Jerusalem temple in about 165 B.C. The temple had been desecrated by the Greek soldiers under the command of Antiochus IV, and turned into a temple for the worship of Zeus. Jewish worship was forbidden, and the Jews were commanded to worship Greek gods, eat the meat of pigs, and engage in rituals repugnant to their faith. Many Jews complied with the new decrees, but the Maccabees led the Jewish revolt against the Greek soldiers, and succeeded in retaking the temple. They found the temple looted and in disarray. Needing to rededicate the temple before it could be used for sacrifices and ordinances, they searched the temple for oil with which to light the menorah, but were only able to find a small container of oil, enough to light the menorah for only a day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, long enough to dedicate the temple and to press and consecrate more oil. Jews today celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights, in commemoration of that miraculous event.
Those of you who are in the area are invited to join me in celebrating the second night of Hanukkah tomorrow night at 9pm in S205. (Food contributions are always welcome). We will have traditional food, games, music and culture, along with lighting the menorah.
Most (all?) of you reading this aren't Jewish. So why should you care about Hanukkah? Apart from the great food (who doesn't like potato pancakes and jelly donuts deep-fried in oil?) Hanukkah has great significance to the Christian world as well. Had there been no Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas. Had the Maccabees and their companions not stood up to the Greek soldiers, Jewish religion would have ceased as we know it. There would be no temple for Christ to teach in, no synagogue for Him to preach in, no Galilean Jewish virgin for Him to be born to. If Antiochus had had his way, the Jews would have been worshiping pagan gods, not looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.
The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of a God who blesses His chosen people when they obey Him, a God who strengthens those who keep His law. We worship a God of miracles, a God of glory, a God of light. Just as He lit His temple, He will light our hearts this Christmas season as we remember the birth of His Son, the Light of the World. Jesus Christ, who performed this miracle, will perform miracles for us. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New Testament, the "light which shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)