Today marks the first day of Hanukkah, which celebrates the cleansing of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epimanes (“the Madman,” a somewhat better title than “Epiphanes,” methinks). Though it’s not a Biblically mandated Feast, it is mentioned in the New Testament (John 10:22), and since it is not expressly mentioned that Yeshua eschewed it, it’s safe to say that He celebrated Hanukkah along with everyone else in Jerusalem.
I’ve occasionally been challenged for keeping Hanukkah instead of Christmas, usually on the basis that it’s purely tradition, having no Biblical mandate. And it’s true, there isn’t a specific Biblical command, but nevertheless, Hanukkah has become very dear to me.
Why? you ask. Simple: Because it celebrates the successful resistance of the Jews to forced Hellenization. Even though God had not sent a prophet in many years, nevertheless He remembered His covenant with the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and gave them victory against overwhelming odds.
It truly breaks my heart that for so many centuries, the Church actually stood in the place of Antiochus, demanding that Jews who wanted to follow the Jewish Messiah to give up everything Jewish, and become functional Greeks instead. And though at times the persecution of a perverted state-church was nearly unbearable, still my people hung onto their identity and their dedication to the Torah of God.
Ironically, it is only because the Jewish people as a whole rejected this false image of Christ and resisted assimilation that the prophetic Scriptures have not been broken. In The Once and Future Antiochus, I explain a particular end-time prophecy that actually points to Hanukkah as its fulfillment.
Until then, Happy Hanukkah, and for my Sunday brethren, Merry Christmas.