I love Hanukkah; each year I celebrate, it becomes more precious to me. I attend a Presbyterian church and have been introduced to the beautiful celebration of Advent.
Did you know both Hanukkah and Advent begin with the lighting of a candle?
The menorah has 4 branches on either side of the raised center. The central candle is called The Helper and is used to light the other candles. After we light our menorah and I gaze into the flickering candlelight, my heart rises with hope, remembering before Jesus died, He told His disciples He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit.
What is Hannukah?
Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, then imposed Hellenistic rule on Judea. Judah Maccabee, a Jewish priest, successfully led a revolt to drive the Syrians from Jerusalem.
After the priests cleansed the Temple, the menorah was lit to rededicate the Temple to the Lord, but they only had enough oil for one day. To their great joy, the Lord caused the oil to burn for 8 days, providing sufficient time to purify oil for the lamps in the Temple.
During those dark days, Jehovah Jirah – their faithful Provider – inspired Judah with hope. In honor of God’s provision, Judah Maccabee initiated Hanukkah (dedication) or the Festival of Lights to commemorate that event and remind Israel of God’s faithfulness.
What is Advent?
Advent means “coming”; it probably began in the 4th century in Spain and Gaul as a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians. In the 6th century, it became a reminder of Jesus coming in the clouds. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Christians interpreted “coming” as related to the birth of Jesus the Christ. Today, Advent is a time celebrated over four weeks in honor of the advent or birth of Christ, but it looks forward with expectation to His 2nd coming to earth for His Bride.
Jesus did not celebrate Advent but we read in John 10:22 that He celebrated Hanukkah, “It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.” He was present when the oil was lit in celebration of this great festival.
The first candle lit for Advent is the candle of Hope. It reminds me of Isaiah’s promise:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them, a light has shined.” (Is 9:2)
Hanukkah & Advent:
As I celebrate Hanukkah, it reminds me of the Dayspring on high, who visited us as we sat in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79), and said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Both Hanukkah and Advent speak to me of our wonderful hope in Father God, who loves us and made provision for us to experience life abundant and full of joy. Like days of old, we, too, walk in darkness. In mercy, God made a way to cleanse us – not a temporary cleansing easily defiled by evil men – but a cleansing that liberates us, fills us with the oil of His Spirit, and allows us to enter God’s holy presence.
This season, when you look at the flickering candles on the menorah or on the Advent wreath – think of Light bursting into whatever darkness you are experiencing today. And take hope! Jesus, who came in the form of a wee baby, is the Light who shines in the darkness. Jesus lived a pure and beautiful life, then died a horrid death so you and I might be born again. Then cleansed, our body becomes the temple of the Living God – purified and set apart for Him.
Know of a surety, darkness could not overcome Jesus. No matter what evil happens, the darkness still cannot overcome Him.