In Part One of this series we explored surface level differences between Hanukkah and Christmas, as well as their early histories. Now, in Part 2, we will begin to explore how Hanukkah and Christmas are similar.
There are many ways Hanukkah and Christmas are similar, and many reasons why it is important to keep the heart of those similarities within our own hearts; not only during the holiday season, but every day of the year.
But, what are these similarities?
To put a few into a brief list—before we explore them further—we find that Hanukkah and Christmas have these in common:
- Valuing a servant’s heart
- Light (specifically FROM Heaven)
- Second Chances
…and many, many more.
Now that we have seen—by this simple, incomplete list—that there are many reasons why Hanukkah and Christmas are similar, let us look at them a bit closer…
A Servant Heart:
At Hanukkah, as discussed in Part One, a “hanukkiah” is utilized—a menorah, or what you might think of as a type of candelabra—with a total of nine candles: one to light the remaining eight, with one new candle lit on each of the eight nights. The hanukkiah candle that is used to light the others is known as the “servant candle.” It is used each night and burns brightly throughout the season of Hanukkah, reminding the user not only of the light of God, but the importance of serving. Especially as it reminds us that the hearts of the Maccabees ran toward serving God, and that it was He who made it possible.
Jesus, like that servant candle, was, is, and will be, a servant to those around Him—even as He is our God, King, and Redeemer. Jesus was born a light to the world, and even death and the grave could not quench that. To this day, as He sits alive and well at the right hand of the Father, He continues to be that same light. Jesus, through every word, action, and deed, even before He came to earth, brought light to those around Him, just as the servant candle on a hanukkiah brings light to all the other candles.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45
Both Hanukkah and Christmas therefore, focus on the importance of being a servant; of having a servant’s heart—the Maccabees themselves possessing such hearts, as does Jesus Himself. Not from any lack of son-ship/daughter-ship or lowliness, but out of love. Out of the love of Heaven.
Hanukkah is often literally referred to as, “the Festival of Lights.” The Maccabees—having hearts to serve God wholly—had a desire to put God’s commands back into practice. One of those commands required the Great Menorah in the Temple to be lit with not just any oil, but with a specially prepared and consecrated oil (see Leviticus 24:2). Yet, as we learned in Part One, it would take eight days to process additional oil for the menorah but they only had enough for one day. So, God stepped in. He saw their hearts, their desire to serve Him, and He gave them light… literally FROM Heaven, for the gift came from God. That light lasted until they could bring God their own. And that light shines on today, not physically, but in the hearts and memory of God’s people as they too light menorahs and hanukkiahs.
Jesus was, is, and will ALWAYS be, the Light of the World. His birth was even shown to “wise men”—magi—via a light in the sky. Light followed Him all His days on Earth, and even now, in Heaven and through those of us who allow our vessels to hold His light. Jesus is the epitome of Heavenly light; Light which shines today and will continue to shine even after the thousand year reign in Jerusalem.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”—John 1:4
God is the HEART of Hanukkah. He is the reason the Maccabees fought—to serve Him. God is the reason they won. God is the reason the Great Menorah remained lit long enough for the Maccabees to craft new holy oil. God is the reason that Hanukkah is still celebrated hundreds upon hundreds of years later… because He is the light, not only of this season, but of all. He is the Miracle Maker. He is God.
Alternatively, given the history we learned about Christmas in Part One of this series, it can safely be said that not ALL parts of Christmas throughout its history have focused on God. However, to those who Believe in Him and understand the season, God IS at the heart of it. Jesus, the very Son of God, is a deep focus of the holiday to many, and therefore, as with Hanukkah, it shows that God is not only the light of the season, but the reason we rejoice in it.
“No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.”—1 Samuel 2:2
Now, we have already learned—through this and Part One—how God gave miracles to the Maccabees. The holy oil did not run out. This is the main miracle many focus on. But even before those days, God gave miracles required for this to occur. In the years and days prior to needing God’s miracle of light, the Maccabees fought and eventually won against unimaginable odds. God stepped in and gave them victory—a miraculous victory—and this is remembered today. Even in the dreidel—a sort of spinning top—the memory of God’s miracles is found; for the Maccabees were not allowed to study the Torah—God’s Word—but they did so secretly. It is said that when the enemy would come upon them as they were studying, they would quickly hide the Torah and pretend to be gambling instead. This traditional story that speaks of the dreidel game, along with the interpretation of the Hebrew letters on each of the dreidel’s four sides (nun, gimel, hay and shin), standing for the phrase, “A great miracle happened here/there” gives us a victorious picture of God—He is the God of miracles!
Any birth through a virgin mother would be a miracle in itself, yet in the days of Mary and Joseph, not only did Mary, a virgin, give birth… she gave birth to the Son of God! This is one of the GREATEST miracles God has ever performed. This is a reason to praise! Yet, the miracles did not stop there. Men from the East came to worship the new-born King because they saw the signs—signs placed by God Himself. Then, because Herod’s heart was set to kill this child, God revealed it to these men in a dream so that they would not return to Herod but go another way—and they listened. Then, even after this, through all the days of Yeshua’s life on earth, His death, resurrection, ascension, and even today as He sits at the right hand of the Father… miracle after miracle came and are still coming to pass.
“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”—Matthew 1:23
Miracles from God are at the heart of both Hanukkah and Christmas.
Every time the Jewish people were forced out of the land of God, it was not merely due to poor military tactics or being outmatched… it was because of disobedience. Yet, God is the God of “second chances,” and third, and forth, and even seventieth. Over and over again God gives His creation chances, and the Maccabees were no exception. They were given a second chance because they chased after God. Even when it put their lives at risk, they would pretend to gamble to study God’s Word. Even when they were outmatched, they fought so they could serve God again. And when at last God gave them their second chance, they continued to do His will and lit the Great Menorah. Even when they did not have enough holy oil, God gave them a second chance at serving Him and allowed the holy oil to last until more was made. Hanukkah was and is a second chance.
The birth of Jesus was not only a second chance for the Jewish people—though God blinded many eyes so that the Gentiles might find Him—but a second chance for ALL God’s creation. We all come from Adam and Eve, who fell, leading every generation into a sin nature… Yet, God gave us His Son, Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah. He gave us our second chance through His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. God saved us through our second chance; the Blood of Jesus.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”—John 10:10
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”—Ephesians 1:7
In Part Three, the conclusion of this series, we will continue to dive into ways Hanukkah and Christmas are similar, and discover how you and I as Believers can benefit from BOTH.