Celebrating Chanukah in the Midst of War
Dear Christian and Jewish Friends,
The eight-day festival of Chanukah - or Feast of Dedication - begins tonight! The Hebrew word, Chanukah, means dedication and the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem 2,200 years ago. It is the celebration of the Jewish victory over Greek occupiers who attempted to destroy Israel spiritually and physically.
This year Chanukah begins on the night that marks two months since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, brutally massacred over 1,200 people and took almost 250 captive to Gaza. Thankfully, some hostages have been released, but there are still 138 human beings held in life-threatening and inhumane conditions.
The observance of Chanukah and its celebration of freedom is particularly poignant this year when Israel is at war with an enemy that - like the ancient Greeks - seeks to destroy it.
The Greek occupation of ancient Israel was a dangerous time for the Jewish people. The very survival of Jewish identity was at stake as the Greeks attempted to force the people of Israel to reject their belief in the one true God and accept the polytheism of the Greek Empire. Jews were expected to abandon their obedience to Torah and central tenets of Judaism such as Sabbath observance and circumcision were outlawed.
However, in the face of incredible persecution and against all odds, the Israelites refused to reject their faith, drove the mightiest army on earth at the time from the land of Judea, rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem and lit the Temple menorah.
In this time of incredible heartbreak, challenge and danger for Israel and Jewish people everywhere, the victory commemorated during this Festival of Lights provides an inspiring example of resistance against evil and the triumph of good in a season of darkness. Israel will overcome today just as it did so long ago because the spirit of the Jewish people is strong!
The Jewish people are strong, but they are facing an astronomical rise in antisemitism worldwide unlike anything we have seen since the time of the Holocaust. Therefore, it is more important now than ever for Christians to stand in solidarity with their Jewish brethren.
One way to stand in solidarity is to pray for God's protection over Israel and Jewish people everywhere. Pray for success and protection for the Israeli Defense Forces as they continue to eradicate the evil of Hamas and search for hostages. Pray for strength and encouragement for the hostages, and for their rescue from captivity. Pray for comfort and strength for the families of the hostages and the families of the more than 1,200 people who were murdered on October 7th.
Another way Christians can stand in solidarity with Jews is by sharing in the celebration of Chanukah - a holiday that should also be significant for Christians for a number of reasons. First of all, according to John 10:22-23, Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication. The very fact that Jesus observed this celebration makes it relevant for Christians.
Second, if the Jewish army had not been victorious over the ancient Greeks, it is entirely possible that the Greeks would have been successful in their efforts to wipe out Jewish identity and observance in the land of Judea almost two hundred years before Jesus was born.
If that had happened, Jesus would not have been born as the recognizable, clearly identifiable Jew who is revealed as such throughout the Christian Testament. In other words, Jesus would not be who Christians know him to be and the events of his life would not have happened as revealed throughout the Scriptures. In short, there would be no Christmas without the events that are celebrated at Chanukah!
The celebration of Chanukah is a reminder of the necessity and significance of the survival of Jewish faith and identity. It is also a testimony to the victory of good over evil following a season of deep darkness. Certainly, these reasons to celebrate are shared by Jews and Christians alike.
In such a time as this, it is more important than ever that Christians and Jews stand together in solidarity against rising antisemitism and anti-Israel activism. Israel is fighting on the front lines of the war for the preservation of Western civilization for us all! Therefore, we must take a stand and speak out in support of Israel's right to defend itself against those who intend to annihilate the Jewish people.
The last two months has been a particularly dark time for Israel and the Jewish people. But we know that with God's help and the support of its friends, Israel will overcome its enemies today just as it did so long ago!
The festival of Chanukah reminds us
Am Yisrael Chai!
The people of Israel live!