I am writing his blog on December 11, a date that will live in infamy as you will soon discover.
This year, the eight days of Hanukkah are celebrated on December 13-20 (beginning the eve of Dec. 12). While Hanukkah has always been considered a Jewish holiday, Christians should also celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate the great victory of the Jews over Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 as recorded in First Maccabaeus. Without that victory the Jews would have perished and Jesus would not have been born.
Three years earlier (167), Antiochus desecrated the holy altar of God at the Temple in Jerusalem by offering a pig as a sacrifice to Zeus. This was on December 25, the birthday of Zeus, who was the Greek high god and thought to be the incarnation of the sun. This was also the supposed birthday of many ancient pagan gods which is why Rome decreed it to be the birthday of Jesus. For this reason, our Pilgrim Fathers did not celebrate Christmas.
Antiochus forbade the Jewish people to practice their religion. They could not practice circumcision, observe the Sabbath, celebrate the feasts, keep the dietary laws, study the Torah, or in any way, worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those who disobeyed were either tortured or killed or both. Their bodies were mutilated, and while still alive and breathing, they were crucified. The wives and sons whom they had circumcised were strangled. They were then crucified with the dead bodies of their children made to hang around their parent’s necks.
Although greatly outnumbered, and fighting the superpower of their time, God gave the Maccabaeus a great victory. They liberated Jerusalem, tore down the pagan altar, cleansed the Temple and reestablished their religious practices. Traditional writings tell us that when the Jews rededicated the altar to God they only had enough oil to burn the menorah for one day. But after the menorah was kindled, it miraculously burned for eight days, thus, the eight days of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication and the Feast of Lights. Jesus celebrated this feast (John 10:22), which certainly makes it “kosher” for Christians. In fact, Jesus was probably conceived in Mary (Miriam) by the Holy Spirit at Hanukkah and born during the Feast of Trumpets or Tabernacles.
The central focus in celebrating Hanukkah is lighting the eight-branched menorah called a hanukkiah. The hanukkiah has a ninth candle called a Shamash. This word means servant. The servant candle is used to light the other eight. May we all be filled with the light of God’s love and be His living hanukkiah servants to a very dark world. And may we have the faith and courage to fight against the darkness that would distinguish our light.
General Edmund Allenby
Now let’s fast forward from the time of the Maccabaeus to 1917 when another in the spirit of the Maccabaeus liberated Jerusalem. Turkey has ruled over Jerusalem for 400 years from 1517. But just as in the time of Antiochus, God had a plan to overthrow Turkey and liberate Jerusalem so that one day the Jews would be able to return to their ancient capital. The man he chose was General Edmund Allenby.
General Allenby was a God fearing Christian general in the British army. He led the liberation of Jerusalem from the Turks that would bring an end to four hundred years of Muslim control of Jerusalem. The Turks surrendered to Allenby on December 9 and he entered in triumphant on December 11. Before entering Jerusalem, Allenby dismounted from his horse and walked in because he said that only the Messiah should ride in triumphant in the final liberation and redemption of Jerusalem.
Now get this! As a Christian boy in England, his mother taught young Edmund to end his bedtime prayers with these words, “And, O Lord, we would not forget your ancient people, Israel. Hasten the day when Israel shall again be your people and shall be restored to your favor and to their land.” Allenby said, “I never knew God would give me the privilege of answering my own childhood prayer.”
Was it just a coincidence that Allenby was the man who liberated Jerusalem or was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob orchestrating these events? Was it just a coincidence that Allenby, the Christian General Maccabean of WWI, liberated Jerusalem DURING THE FEAST OF HANUKKAH or was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob orchestrating these events? Is it just a coincidence that it is during the approaching season of Hanukkah that the President of the USA has publicly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of history. He declares the end from the beginning. His counsel shall stand and none shall stay His hand (Isaiah 46:9-10).