Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feast of Dedication

The only reference to Chanukah , or Hannukah, in our Protestant bibles is in John !0 :22-23 where it is written that Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate it in the temple. Jesus would have been familiar with the story of the events it celebrates as found in the book of 1 Macabees in the Apocrapha. Depending on the year,
Chanukah is celebrated in either November or December.

Known as the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, this festival commemorates a miracle that occured in the temple, which would be the second temple, around 164 B.C.. A Greek conqueror, Antiochus IV, who knicknamed himself Epiphanes or “god manifest.” Decided to destroy Jerusalem and profame the holy temple since the Jews were resisting Hellenization. Jewish High Priest was assassinated, and a pig was slaughtered on the altar and burned a statue of Zeus erected in theholy place. The Jewish religion was outlawed, replaced by with his own pagan worship. Anyone who who resisted was executed cruelly.

A small group of ill equipped men led by Judah Macabee began a guerrilla revolt, descending from the mountains and striking. They were successful in driving out the occupying army, the temple could be cleansed and rededicated.  But there was only enough purified olive oil to light the Menorah in the Temple for one day and it would take eight days for the purification. The Menorah lights burned miraculously the entire eight days and the temple was purified and dedicated.

The Ark of the Covenant was missing from the second temple, but The Light of the World filled the second temple on that Feast of Dedication and he said “my sheep hear my voice and follow me.”

I suggest that we celebrate today our own Feast of Dedication, taking a moment to cleanse and consecrate ourselves, these human forms which are the temple of the Holy Spirit to renewed service. This service is to be sweet, as “Jesus tell us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light” Hebrew children, when they begin to study the Torah are given honey on their tongues to remind them that to dedicate oneself to the knowledge of the Word of God is a sweet thing. So we remind ourselves as we “study to show ourselves approved”. Let us not be weary.

The Chanukah Menorah, the eight candledabra is lit by a servant candle, the Shamash on each day of the Festival. Although the “Shamash” is located above the other candles, it must bow low to light them. This reminds us that Jesus humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant, sharing his glorious light with us. We are all called to bear His light into this dark world. It is good to remember that we too, must bow low for the sake of the body of Christ and share our light with others.

Without Chanukah there would be no Christmas, if the Greeks had succeeded in wiping out the Jewish faith. Without the Festival of Lights there would be no Light of the World whom we love and serve.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.