That may sound strange coming from a non-Jewish, born-again Christian girl like me, but if you saw how many scented candles I burn in my house every week, you’d understand my fascination with this festival of lights. Give me a menorah and some Yankee candles, and I’ll celebrate Hanukkah eight days a week, not eight days a year.
With or without the cranberry-and-apple-pie flavored scents, I still think everyone should celebrate this traditionally Jewish holiday. Jesus did! Without Hanukkah, we wouldn’t have those delicious deep-fried potato pancakes called latkes. Without Hanukkah, we wouldn’t have Christmas or Easter or churches or any of the great hymns like Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art. Without Hanukkah, Jesus would never have been born, or healed the sick, or paid the price for our sins so we wouldn’t have to.
The story of Hanukkah takes place in the period of time between the Old and New Testaments. It was actually prophesied about 250 years before that, in Daniel chapter eight. The angel Gabriel spoke to the prophet Daniel of a king who would try to end the Jewish religion for good, and who would desecrate the Holy Sanctuary.
Sure enough, Antiochus IV did everything in his power to bring about the demise of the Jewish faith. He slaughtered 40,000 Jewish people, forbid Jewish Temple sacrifices, and destroyed the Holy Scriptures. Then, as a final in-your-face insult to the Almighty God, he dedicated the Holy Temple to Zeus, slaughtered a pig on the altar as a way of desecrating it, and forced the remaining Jews to partake in heathen practices.
The Maccabean family, descendants of Aaron’s priestly line, got fed up and led a revolt. They pretty much had zero chance of winning on their own . . . but God was on their side.
Those two little words, but God, are some powerful words.
God was with this little band of revolutionaries, and the Jews experienced numerous victories against Antiochus and his brutes. At last, the Maccabean fighters were victorious. They stood in the temple of their God, ready to purify and restore it. They wanted to rededicate this holy place . . . but there was one problem. They didn’t have enough of the special oil to keep the light going for more than a day. They lit the lamp and sent a group of them on an eight-day there-and-back journey to get more oil. The story has it that, even though there was only enough oil for one day, God kept the flame going for the entire eight days, until the replacement oil arrived.
The word Hanukkah comes from a word that means “rededication,” because they needed the oil to rededicate the temple. It’s a celebration of victory over darkness. It’s a celebration of but God . . . Without this victory, there would have been no Jewish faith, no Jewish girl named Mary, no Christianity.
I could share many but God stories of my own. Periods of darkness, when I saw no way out. Times when I faced the giants and knew defeat was certain. But God was on my side . . . but God carried me when I couldn’t stand on my own . . . but God . . . but God . . . but God. He saw the Jewish people through, and He has brought me to personal triumph time and again. And He will continue to bring victory and light into a dark world.
Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.