Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hanukkah Thoughts: A Lighted City On A Hill

Happy 1st day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights!!! John 10:22 tells us "Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem and it was winter. Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon's Colonnade." 

I can only imagine what Jerusalem must have looked like--the highest city for miles around, situated on a hill, with each window having a Menorah burning away in it at night. It must have been spectacular to see. Every time I see beautiful Christmas lights, I think of Hanukkah and I think of the beauty of this city on a hill. Jesus said: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. The church, spiritually IS Jerusalem. We are meant to shine like lights in the windows, illuminating the darkness for miles around.

Jesus, Himself was present for this special festival celebrating the cleansing and rededication of the temple and it is specifically mentioned in Scripture. I have to believe there was a reason for it. Many Jews look at Judah Maccabee, "the Hammer," as a type of savior for taking control of Judea from the Seleucid empire and cleansing the temple. They expected the Messiah to be a warrior like this who would free them from Roman rule, but Jesus' said His Kingdom is not of this current world. He compared Himself to a humble Shepherd in this incidence. I think it no coincidence that in the passage from John 10, the only time this festival is mentioned in Holy Scripture, Jesus asserts that HE is the Messiah, HE is the ultimate and final Savior, and they rejected Him and picked up rocks to try to stone Him to death. The truth is, we are all very lucky that Jesus did not come as a warrior. There will come a day when He will return in all of His glory to utterly and completely destroy his enemies, but we were ALL once one of those enemies.  The message the angels brought to the Shepherds on the night Jesus was born was a mission statement for the type of Messiah He would be:

Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you GOOD news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the city of David, a savior is born who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Suddenly their was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, Peace, GOOD will toward men. 

When God came to us in the form of a humble man, He chose to exercise grace. He had compassion on us and came offering salvation and to make us part of his heavenly kingdom. He did not come to save the Jews from Roman rule. He came to save all of us from our sins. He didn't come as they savior they wanted, He came as the savior we all needed. If you have never accepted God's grace and welcomed Jesus as your Savior, I would encourage you to make that decision.

The fact that this festival celebrates the rededication of the temple after it had been desecrated is significant to me. Antiochus IV Epiphanes had set up an alter to Zeus, sacrificed pigs in the temple and made the temple vessels filthy and unclean. When they took it back and cleansed the temple, there was only enough oil to light the sacred Menorah, a golden lampstand in the temple with 7 lamps, for one night, but it miraculously burned for 8 nights, giving them time to find more oil. This is why Jews now light the Menorah, though I do not understand why they light a 9 candle Menorah, instead of a 7  lamp Menorah. We, as Christians, are now God's Holy temple. He has cleansed us and rededicated us for His holy purposes. Now we are the vessels Jesus has made clean and fit for service. Have you been made clean?

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. -2 Timothy 2:21 

The lampstand in the temple held 7 lamps like the one pictured below. The oil which keeps them lit up
represents the Holy Spirit. Our lights burn bright because He shines through us and is at work within us, with a never-ending supply of His Spirit. I like to think that part of our Christmas light tradition comes from Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. As we enter into this season, let us remember that we are meant to be the city on a hill. We are the lamps burning brightly with a supply of oil that never runs out. We are Jerusalem, the Teaching of Peace, the City of Peace, ruled by the Prince of Peace, Jesus. 

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