- First, I Wasn't Raised in a Jewish Home
- The Similarities and Differences Between Hanukkah and Christmas
- The History of Hanukkah
- The History of Christmas
- The Connection Is the Light!
- In Closing…
Can Believers in Jesus celebrate Hanukkah? Absolutely!
Most Believers grow up celebrating Christmas. Celebrating Hanukkah seems like a foreign concept. Is it possible to do both?
Join Rabbi Curt Landry in this podcast as he helps to break down the beauty and wonder of Believers celebrating Hanukkah. He also explains…
· The differences between Hanukkah and Christmas.
· The hope that is shared in both Hanukkah and Christmas.
· This historical significance of Hanukkah
· The historical significance of Christmas
Ultimately, come to understand the victorious story of Hanukkah and how we, as Believers, can be encouraged by this story that is written in the history of our spiritual DNA.
Transcription from Podcast (Revised for Readability)
Can Believers celebrate Hanukkah? Absolutely! The relationship between Hanukkah and Christmas is interesting. Let's separate the wall of separation between these two historically.
Listen, I know that there are pagan roots in the Christmas celebration. And my family, we are actually Hanukkah and Christmas Jews. I hope I don't lose any followers because of that, but I will explain a little bit about why that's important in our family.
First, I Wasn't Raised in a Jewish Home
First of all, I wasn't raised in a Jewish home. I didn't find out I was Jewish until I was 37 years old, which you heard in some of my other podcasts.
But you have to understand that everything can have some flaws in it (with the exception of God’s Word), but you have to choose to eat the meat and spit out the bones. Listen, I'm not talking about something like Halloween, which is absolutely evil at its root. In my opinion, there's nothing good that you can pull out of it. But so many times, people get legalistic over these things, and you need to understand that God is forever speaking in and through all things.
Here are some basic things about the history of Hanukkah and Christmas. I'm going to break this into two podcasts. So I'll have this podcast this week, and next week I'll do another part of it.
The Similarities and Differences Between Hanukkah and Christmas
There are the colors associated with each, food and symbols too. How are Hanukkah and Christmas similar?
Let's just break it down.
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, yet we celebrate Christmas with Christmas lights. It's a celebration of God. There's a celebration of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we see that in Hanukkah and Christmas.
We also celebrate miracles, the miracle of Christ's birth, even though we know, and it's no way to prove it, that Jesus was not born on December the 25th. And also, the Hanukkah miracle… that the oil was restored for eight days. That's written through the scribes, but it's something that we believe to be true.
So can Believers celebrate the commonality between Hanukkah and Christmas? Well, first of all, both of them are about restoration. If there is ever a time when we need hope and restoration, it is now. Both holidays have that available.
And the other thing is just to have hope itself. We are in a time when things get darker earlier, and things are cold and damp. And this is a time when there needs to be a celebration, a celebration of life and hope.
Are you surprised to find the similarities between the two, especially as they relate to the heart of a Believer and the relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
The History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a story of facing adversity. It is a story of deliverance from the Hellenized mindset and culture. It is known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is the historical account of the Maccabean army that came up against all odds and gained a victory over Antiochus IV. After this victory was won, the Jewish people stepped out by faith and rededicated their Temple to the Lord with minimal provision.
We Are Prophetically in a Hanukkah Season
Let me just say this about Hanukkah. We're at Hanukkah right now. The United States of America is prophetically in a Hanukkah season. The enemy’s spirits are trying to take over our temples– our bodies, minds, wills, and emotions–to make decisions out of Hellenistic rather than a biblical, godly view.
The nations are not following God's ways or God's instructions. Thus, they do not represent, reflect, or get the results that God wants.
Here’s something you need to understand about Hanukkah…
- The victory at Hanukkah was not won by cleansing the temple. The victory was won when a senior leader of the Jewish family, the Maccabees, Judah Maccabee, made a decision that when Antiochus IV, came to his town of Modi'in, he would not defile the alter of the Lord with a sacrificed pig.
The garrison came in on Shabbat and said, “We command you with this garrison to sacrifice a pig on your altar on Shabbat. And we demand that you do it, and you do it now in front of us so that we can watch, making sure that you obey us and defile your spiritual lives.”
Judah Maccabee went from being non-confrontational to becoming very confrontational. He became violent in the sense that he said, “Enough is enough.” Regarding the Hanukkah story, the victory of restoring Israel back to God happened with one person saying, “Enough is enough.” When he said, “Enough is enough,” he told his sons, “We're not going to do this.” They went to war with this garrison, and by the supernatural power of God, they killed all those soldiers.
And then they had to slip out in the night and go from Modi'in to Jerusalem. When they got to the Temple, they saw it was defiled. There was a statue of Zeus defiling everything in it. There were Jewish priests operating in a defiling way.
- Took the statue out
- Cleansed the Temple
- Sanctified it
- Got rid of the priests
Then they had to make a decision and step out in faith. The Great Menorah was there. There was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night. And so they light it for the first night of the restoration of restoring the light to God's Temple. And then they are in a decision.
Understand This about Preparing the Oil… Consecration!
The Temple was up on the Temple Mount, where it is today. They could have gone down the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives, where there would be an oil press, and get oil and put it into the lamp to light it.
But the instruction said they couldn't light oil unless it's been consecrated according to the law of Moses, which takes eight days. They chose to pour the oil into one day. Miraculously the carafe fills for all eight days.
That’s the story of Hanukkah: how the Lord provides oil for eight days to get to your new beginning if you'll do it by faith and not cave into trying to fix it in the flesh.
The History of Christmas
The history of Christmas is interesting because Christmas, like Hanukkah, has a long history. However, unlike Hanukkah, Christmas did not start with a desire to serve God.
Before Jesus was born, humanity found that celebrating during the long winter months helped them find encouragement. When they were in the cold and dark days, these celebrations often focused on life and birth. But during the long and cold weather, pagans, those outside the Hebrew faith, wanted hope. They celebrated in anticipation of longer, warmer days to come.
Yuletide and Christmas
But how did Yuletide become connected to Christmas? Yule is a festival that celebrates the winter solstice. Yule's roots are in the Scandinavian culture and were observed before the birth of Christ.
Christianity spread and reached the Gentile nations that already had deeply ingrained traditions within their culture. They did what they wanted and let some of their traditions go, so they became associated with Christmas. Yule is one of these traditions.
It was a custom for the fathers and the sons to drag an evergreen tree into the house and remind them of the coming spring days of green and the life they desired. They would burn the wood with the hope of good fortune to come and light up for these long cold nights. As mentioned, this was a holiday that the people did not want to let go of. But Jesus's birth was not included with these pagans in the early parts of the history of Christmas.
How Saturn and Mithra became connected with Christmas…
As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the existing culture and traditions greatly influenced how Christmas would be observed. Near the coming of the winter solstice, the Romans people would honor the false god, Saturn, who was the god of agriculture.
They also honored Mithra, the sun god who was said to be born on December 25th. The supposed birthdate of the sun god, Mithra, was considered to be some of the holiest days of the year. As Christianity and Jesus began to infiltrate the culture and the hearts of those who believed, it has been said that Jesus' birthdate was set to be the same date as Mithra, creating an easy transition into the culture.
As you can see, Christianity has a number of customs and origins that are far from the belief in the Lord but were accepted by Believers of old creating easy transitions for new converts. Many traditions continue to this day due to the years of customs and forgetting of their origins.
However, Believers today, along with those of the past, keep our Lord Jesus Christ as the focus. And this is what's important to note: We don't know the exact time or the date of Jesus' birth, yet we do know He is the true Light of the World, as stated in God’s Word.
The Connection Is the Light!
The connection between Hanukkah and the Christmas celebration is the fact that they are both about the lights. The Scripture says that the shepherds were in the field, and they were waiting. Well, the shepherds wouldn't be in the field in Bethlehem in December. They're not out feeding their flocks. So we know that it would've had to have been in a warmer time.
We personally believe that Jesus was born at the Feast of Tabernacles because there are many scriptures talking about, “And the word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us,” for example. So it would make sense.
Also, being a Jewish child and being kosher, they wouldn't have put a kosher Jewish child into a manger, which would be a food trough for animals. But they would've had sukkahs, which are these three-sided tents and these things on the side of the buildings. So if there was no room at the inn, but yet there were sukkahs, it would've made sense that Jesus would've been able to be born in one of these sukkahs. And that spiritually makes a lot of sense.
In the same sense, if He came to “tabernacle amongst us,” and He is the restored Tabernacle of David, coming to Earth, He would be born at Sukkot.
Listen, we have no way biblically or historically proving that, but it comes into alignment.
I want to close with this, don't get hung up on the legalism of these things. Paganism and legalism are issues of the heart. The Hanukkah story is about the victory of a small army overcoming evil. And the tree in your house, the Christmas tree with lights… It also can be a reflection of Galatians 3:13, that says…
- “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)…”
It represents the place where a weakened, beaten, stripped, and pinned Messiah, Yeshua, who overcame the whole world, also changed the world by going to hell, death in the grave, and changing salvation and shifting all the universes, one man on one tree.
And isn't it amazing that both of them said that we became the light of the world? So as you celebrate Christmas and as you celebrate Hanukkah, keep your eyes on the light and receive the peace and the hope of that light soon to come. God bless you. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Shalom.
Curt Landry, founder of Curt Landry Ministries, and his wife, Christie, travel extensively, preaching and teaching about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Together, their passion is to empower families to live and leave Kingdom legacies and understand their own personal heritage.