“Happy Holidays” is a widely used greeting during this time of year, aiming to be inclusive and respectful. Maybe though, there is a deeper significance when we acknowledge the alignment of Jewish and Christian festivals during this season. Christians can embrace the merging of celebrations, such as Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights), with the joyous celebration of the coming of our savior, Jesus.
During the time of Jesus, Hanukkah was known as the Feast of Dedication. It is called so because it commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. The events leading to Hanukkah took place in the second century BCE when King Antiochus IV attempted to suppress Jewish religious practices. However, a successful revolt led by the Maccabees resulted in the Jews reclaiming and cleansing the desecrated second temple.
Hanukkah and Christmas are distinct religious holidays, but they share historical connections and occur around the same time of year. Interestingly, both celebrations revolve around the concept of light, as they both point to the same God. Hanukkah, a Jewish festival, commemorates the miraculous event of the oil lasting eight days in the second temple. On the other hand, Christmas, a Christian holiday, celebrates the birth of Jesus, often symbolized by the Star of Bethlehem, which signifies the arrival of an eternal light for the world.
Hanukkah candles are traditionally lit using a nine-branched candle labrum called a Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah. The lighting ritual occurs during each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. On the first night, a candle known as the Shamash, or servant candle, is lit. Each subsequent night, the number of lit candles increases by one, progressing from right to left. The Shamash is used to light the other candles, symbolizing the spreading of light and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. The ceremonial lighting is accompanied by prayers and blessings, creating a meaningful and symbolic observance of the holiday.
This symbolism regarding the Shamash candle is profound and holds great significance for believers. Jesus is the “Light of the World” and illuminates our lives with his teachings and sacrificial love. From a believer’s perspective, the Shamash candle represents Jesus illuminating our lives to cleanse our lives of all unrighteousness. Jesus has dedicated each believer to serve as a light to the world.
Just as the Shamash candle lights up the other candles on the menorah, bringing light to the darkness, Jesus teaches us the importance of bringing light to the world. Jesus has dedicated each believer to serve as a light, encouraging us to share His message of love, compassion, and forgiveness with others.
Through our actions and words, we reflect His light onto those around us. The symbolism of Jesus being represented by the Shamash candle serves as a beautiful reminder not only of Christ’s illuminating presence in our own lives, but also of our responsibility to shine that light onto others.
Ultimately, this symbolism serves as a reminder to all believers that they have been chosen not only for their personal transformation but also to share the Truth with people from all nations. So, Merry Christmas!