It’s 166 BC. Imagine you are an Israelite who loves God. It has been years, no, generations since God has been heard. No messages to a prophet. No visions to a priest. No revelation to a king. No angels appearing. Nothing. Imagine the feeling of hopelessness. Imagine the doubts that would creep in: “Has God abandoned us? Does He care? Will we hear from Him again?”
Wouldn’t you have been worried? Were God’s chosen people somehow no longer chosen?
This was the plight of the Hebrews during the time known as the 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They were waiting on a message from God. More importantly, they were waiting for their Messiah. Not only that, but Jerusalem was under the rule of a tyrant who had put himself in the place of God. The Israelites had been in exile and under the control of Babylon, then Persia, then Alexander the Great. Alexander’s kingdom was split up at his death, and Jerusalem was claimed by the Syrians. Antiochus IV, who called himself Epiphanes (God Manifest), became king, and he hated the Jews. He despised the Jewish culture and beliefs, and he mercilessly persecuted them. He tried to get them to act like the Greeks. He made it illegal to pray or practice their religion. He put idols like Zeus in the temple and even sacrificed a pig on the altar to make it unclean. He sent an army to wipe them out, but the Jews bravely fought and won. They took back the temple and began the hard work of fixing it and cleaning it. Rededicating it. As they removed the pagan blasphemies from their temple they were only able to find enough ceremonial lamp oil to last one day. It would take a week to prepare new oil to be used for this holy purpose, but they lit the lamp anyway. God miraculously made that small amount of oil last 8 days. This miracle has been celebrated every year since.
Now that I understand the context of Hanukkah, I am struck by the power of the holiday. Through that simple miracle, God reminded his people that He was never gone. Just quiet. Just waiting for the absolute right time.
Even when He was silent, He was there.
Christmas is the time of year when our emotions are amplified. It is a time of great joy and excitement, but everything sad is made more tragic. Losses are more painful and sad memories are more poignant. We miss the loved ones who have passed, and we mourn for the innocence and simplicity that we have lost. Sometimes the season can be dark, and we wonder: “Is God there? Why is He so quiet?”
He has not abandoned us.
We will hear from Him again.
Let Hanukkah’s bright lights remind you that He is here, even when we can’t hear Him.
This year we are mixing Hanukkah with our normal Advent celebration. We have 8 candles which we are lighting, explaining the historical background to our kids, and reminding them that Jesus is our light.
Jesus and Hanukkah (Did you know Jesus celebrated Hanukkah?)
Interested in Jewish holidays? Us too! Click here for a TON of resources!