An Appeal to Followers of Christ
Thus says the L-RD:
“Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;-Jeremiah 10:2-4
Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the peoples are vanity;
For one cuts a tree from the forest,
The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.
It doesn’t really make sense for someone who isn’t Jewish, who wasn’t raised Jewish, to be celebrating Chanukkah, right? Or does it?
Well, I’m going to argue that it makes more sense for me to celebrate Chanukkah than it does for me, or most people for that matter, to celebrate Christmas. So why did I stop celebrating Christmas and start celebrating Chanukkah?
The short answer: I believe that’s what Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) would do, and I want to follow him.
The real ‘reason for the season’ of Christmas is supposedly Christ, right? That’s why it’s called ‘Christ-Mass.’ However, that’s not at all what I see in most of the world around me during that season. Christmas is more about gifts (materialism, commercialism), flashy, showy lights, feel-good songs about non-sense like magical flying reindeer and a fat man pulled by their sleigh, candy, and unhealthy comfort food. It’s really almost completely motivated by nihilistic self-indulgence and greed, which is about the furthest thing from the example of the one that Christmas supposedly celebrates – the Christ self-sacrificing for the redemption of the world. Many Christians will argue, if pressed, that all of this is just ‘a distraction from the Enemy’ about the real meaning of Christmas – while incidentally they still dabble in all of this ‘distraction.’ How come we don’t see this same struggle for purity with the biblical holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur? Rather than being all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas, I simply argue that if Christmas was really the pure will of G-D for us, then why would it be such a struggle to ‘put Christ back into Christmas?’ Maybe we’re forcing someone ‘back’ who never belonged in the first place…
The exact day of Christmas (the birth of Christ) isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible. There are some interesting theories out there, including calculations from the time of the service of Zechariah the priest in the Temple of Jerusalem and the difference in time from John’s conception to Yeshua’s (six months), but no one really knows and it doesn’t matter if they did, because there’s not a single, explicit instruction in the Bible to commemorate the birth of the Messiah on a specific day.
Not only that, but the date of Christmas (Dec. 25th) historically comes from the birthday of the Roman sun god on the Winter Solstice of the Julian calendar, the darkest day and favorite time of the year for pagan rituals. The Winter Solstice doesn’t even fall on December 25th in the revised Roman calendar of Pope Gregory XIII that the world uses today. Is it any wonder that Christmas, except for leap years, falls on the 359th day of the year, the numerical value in Hebrew for the name, “Satan (שטן)”? Is it a surprise that Santa, whose name shares the letters of ‘Satan,’ has come to replace Christ’s central role in Christmas? Maybe we’ve opened that door. There are two persons who properly share the name, ‘Old Nick…’
I find it incredible that we don’t know the actual day of Christ’s birth, but the holidays which G-D HIMSELF explicitly gives, like Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), we all can easily know from the Scriptures, even from the New Testament, and yet we don’t even mark the calendar as Christians. In fact, the only birthdays that are celebrated in the Bible are that of Egyptian Pharaoh and King Herod, both ruthless despots who had innocent children and people murdered, partly ‘in celebration’ of their birthdays. I wonder how many people are killed or practically enslaved around the world by our materialistic greed in the so-called ‘celebration of King Christ’s birth.’ We will justify nearly any pagan, idolatrous practice, as long as we throw the label, ‘Christ,’ onto it and say that it’s really, actually ‘for his glory.’ That’s what the Roman Catholic Church did, in order to bring the pagan world into the ‘true faith,’ but really they just made the true faith pagan. Interesting that Protestants who wouldn’t dare attend a Roman Mass are more than happy, actually merry, celebrating a holiday named after the Catholic service – Christ Mass. It’s this and all of the other hypocrisies which defile Christ’s name amongst the world, especially amongst his kinsmen and co-religionists, the Jews.
As for the Jews, the holidays they celebrate are all derived from the Bible. Passover, Pentecost, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles, are not only holidays given directly by G-D, but they are all discussed and celebrated by Yeshua and his followers in the New Testament. The holiday of Purim is mentioned explicitly in the biblical Book of Esther. The only major Jewish holiday which is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, Chanukkah, is actually mentioned in the New Testament, where it says that Yeshua went to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the “Feast of Dedication” (Chanukkah, in Hebrew). This means that all of the Jewish holidays can be derived from the Bible alone, with most of them expressly given by G-D for HIS people to keep “forever.”
If Chanukkah is not expressly given by G-D in the Bible, then let us look at some reasons for why we should celebrate it, other than the mere fact that Yeshua celebrated it (aren’t we his followers?).
First, let’s try to understand why Chanukkah is even mentioned in the New Testament at all, by looking at the passage:
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication (Chanukkah) took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Yeshua was walking in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Judeans gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Yeshua answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my FATHER’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My FATHER who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the FATHER’s hand. 30 The FATHER and I are one.”
31 The Judeans took up stones again to stone him. 32 Yeshua replied, “I have shown you many good works from the FATHER. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Judeans answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” 34 Yeshua answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods (“elohim”)’? 35 If those to whom the word of G-D came were called ‘gods’—and the Scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the FATHER has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am G-D’s son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my FATHER, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the FATHER is in me and I am in the FATHER.” 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been immersing earlier, and he remained there.-John 10:22-40
Let’s look at the main message of Yeshua which is connected to the holiday of Chanukkah. In this passage, Yeshua is defending himself against the accusation of blasphemy. These Judeans said that Yeshua was making himself God. To which Yeshua replied that humans are called in the Scriptures, “gods (elohim),” and that he is not blaspheming when he calls himself “a son of G-D.” This is hardly controversial because many humans in the Bible are called, “elohim (gods).” For example, Moses (Ex. 7), the judges of Israel (Ex. 22), the angels (Ps. 8), the king of Israel (Ps. 45), and Satan himself (2 Cor. 4) are all called, “gods (Heb. elohim),” a title which can also be properly translated as, “mighty powers, judges, etc.”
So why is this the main message of Yeshua connected to Chanukkah? In Judaism, Chanukkah celebrates the successful resistance to pagan, idolatrous influence and compulsion upon the holy people of G-D. Whereas Purim celebrates Jewish survival of the physical onslaught of the people by Persians, Chanukkah mainly celebrates Jewish survival of the spiritual onslaught of the people by Greek paganism. Chanukkah is named after the cleansing from idolatry and re-dedication (Heb. chanukkah) of spiritual service to G-D at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Syrian Greeks tried to coerce the Jewish people into abandoning their faithfulness to the Only True G-D and compelling them to practice pagan idolatry, i.e. true spiritual suicide. The king of these Greeks, Antiochus Epiphanes, claimed to be the ‘epiphany’ (or ‘manifestation’) of a Greek god (Is it a coincidence that the Church calls Christ’s incarnation, ‘the Epiphany’?). If the Maccabean priests hadn’t been victorious over the Greeks, there likely wouldn’t have been left, physically or spiritually, a Jewish nation for Yeshua to be born into…
In this passage, these Judeans thought that Yeshua was making himself God because he claimed to be “G-D’s son.” In the Hellenistic world of which Judea had become a part through centuries of Greco-Roman imperialism, it was widely-understood that the kings and rulers alone were divine because they, not the ‘regular’ or ‘normal’ people, were ‘sons of the gods.’ Surely this is what these Hellenized Judeans thought that Yeshua was claiming for himself as a “son of G-D.” However, the Jewish belief had always been that every human being is a child of G-D and everyone is intrinsically of infinite worth as made “in the image of G-D” (Genesis 1:27) and “partakers in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Yeshua truly was expressing the Jewish view of the One, infinite G-D when he said, “though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the FATHER is in me and I am in the FATHER.” Even if we don’t believe Yeshua, according to Yeshua, we can know and understand that everyone is in the truly infinite FATHER and the truly omnipresent FATHER is working in everyone, including Yeshua. Yeshua said that his FATHER is “greater than all” and that “the FATHER and I are one.” This is what Yeshua desired for everyone when he prayed in the same book of John, “that they all may be one, as YOU, FATHER, are in me, and I in YOU; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that YOU sent me. And the glory which YOU gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and YOU in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that YOU have sent me, and have loved them as YOU have loved me” (17:21-23).
Yeshua says precisely this is why the world will know that G-D sent him: we’ve been given the same glory as Yeshua – no more and no less, as equally beloved children of G-D, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of G-D and joint heirs with Messiah” (Romans 8:17). This is Yeshua’s Chanukkah message to us. Anyone who speaks otherwise is spreading Greek idolatry and paganism. They are trying to convince you that you are separate from the Only True infinite G-D and that only a king could be one with G-D!
Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and he also said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The Festival of Lights (Chanukkah) teaches us to let our lights shine! This holiday which teaches us to cleanse the Temple and light its lamp, teaches us that we are each bodily temples of G-D’s Presence, just as Yeshua and the New Testament emphatically proclaim.
Let’s not follow the masses! Let’s actually follow Christ!
Whereas Christmas teaches us to assimilate into paganism, Chanukkah teaches us to reject paganism outright in zeal for our holy L-RD. Next Winter, instead of putting a pagan Christmas tree, chopped from its roots, in our home, let us return to our Jewish roots and cleanse our FATHER’s House of all of its idols, whose House we also are, as was Yeshua.