Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hanukkah, Jesus!

During this time of year, many Christians celebrate what for them is the most important holiday of the year, remembering the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, Jewish families celebrate an eight-day festival of lights recalling the rededication of Solomon's temple over a hundred years before Jesus' birth. To many, an unbridgeable chasm exists between these holidays and the religions from which they originate. To those who practice Judaism, Jesus is "for them", and to those who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah is "for them".

The reality, however, is that Jesus was and is Jewish ("Jesus" is the transliteration of His given name, "Yeshua"), and Christianity is thoroughly Hebraic ("messiah" is the transliteration of the Hebrew, "Mashiach"). Jewish Christians around the world, sometimes known as "Messianic Jews", recognize and illustrate this fact well, saved by their Jewish Savior without abandoning their Jewish roots. Gentile Christians are sometimes shocked to find out that these Jewish Christians often celebrate Hanukkah rather than (or in addition to) Christmas.

It might surprise them to know, however, that the Savior whose birth they celebrate at Christmas Himself celebrated Hanukkah! As John recorded in his gospel,

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. (John 10:22-23)

It's difficult to imagine Jesus, born a Jew, raised by Jews, in Jewish communities, standing in the corner with His arms folded, blank expression on His face, while His brothers and sisters sing and dance in celebrating Hanukkah. More likely, He was at the Temple because it was Hanukkah, and was celebrating with His people.

So while Christians around me at this time of year wish Jesus a happy birthday, I would like to say to Him instead, "HAPPY HANUKKAH, YESHUA HAMASHIACH!"

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