Advent and Hanukkah are so closely related that I absolutely feel right about sharing this all with you and the connectedness of them becomes greater the more research you do on them. I am going to share today the historical story of Hanukkah and tomorrow we will look at the very strong reasons Christians have to celebrate Hanukkah.
This all took place in the period between the writing of the Old and New Testaments and is all recorded in the Apocrypha books of the Maccabees. A name famous in History is Alexander the Great and the book of Maccabees starts with him. He conquered the entire known world in his day. In 333.B.C. that included Syria, Egypt, Babylonia and Israel, he instigated a lenient form of Greek culture that included the study of the Greek language, customs and dress. The problems cropped up really after his death.
After the fighting and smoke cleared his Empire had been split into 4 stable blocks; one of these known as the Seleucid Empire (basically Syria) had control of Israel. Their King Antio-chus Epiphanies was a tyrant, he was not lenient about imposing his beliefs and culture on everyone in the Seleucid Empire; in Israel he banned them from observing the weekly Sabbath, installed Jews who adhered to Greek culture as priests, outlawed the reading of the Bible and had any copies found burned. Temple sacrifices were forbidden and he outlawed circumcision (the mark of the covenant that the Jews had with God), mothers who had their sons circumcised were killed along with the babies. Many Jews fled into the wilderness and lived in caves as King David had centuries earlier; many became martyrs of their faith.
He set up a statue/idol of Zeus (the Greek sun God) in the Temple in Jerusalem and had a pig sacrificed to Zeus, forcing Jews to participate and eat pork or die. Many chose death rather than defilement and the breaking of God’s laws. Eventually the Jews fought back in a rebel-lion lead by a priestly family “the Maccabees” they became freedom fighters and lead the way in 3 years of guerrilla warfare against the oppressors. That they won is a great miracle.
God had been silent during all this time – there were no prophets anymore and they didn’t know really if He was still with them. So on the 25th of Kislev (which was that year the 25 December) after liberating the Temple, they cleansed it the best they could and had it re-dedicated but when they came to light the great Menorah with the sacred oil they found they only had one day’s worth of sacred oil left intact. The Menorah is meant to burn continuously and be an eternal flame as God is the eternal light of the world. This is commanded in Leviti-cus (see our Old Testament Reading) and a few others places in the Old Testament. It would take eight days to produce more sacred oil but they went ahead and lit the Menorah with the little they had, after the first day the Menorah kept burning shedding its light for the next 8 days until they had enough to refill it.
The miracle of the oil – so they knew because of this miracle, that even though God was silent, he was still with them. They joyously praised and celebrated, and do so every year in thankfulness at God’s miracles and wonders and in the knowledge that though He may be silent sometimes He is still with us.