As we support all our Jewish friends who are celebrating Hanukkah, it might be interesting to ponder that fact that if it wasn't for Hanukkah, there might not be a Christmas.
Sarah Ban Breathnach writes about this in her wonderful devotional, Simple Abundance.
Originally known as the "Festival of Lights," Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that occurred in 165 B.C., after Judas Maccabaeus and his followers reclaimed Jerusalem from a Greek emperor who considered Israel a Greek province. In an attempt to assimilate conquered nations into a cohesive and controllable society, the Greek empire prohibited any other religion; Jews were forced to abandon their faith and ordered to worship Greek gods. The Temple of Jerusalem was turned into a Greek shrine. Many Jews disobeyed this edict and died for their beliefs. After a three-year campaign, the Maccabees were victorious and the temple was restored to Jewish worship. As part of their rededication ceremony they began an eight-day purification rite, only to discover there was barely enough sacred oil to keep the temple menorah lit for one day. Miraculously, the temple lamp burned continuously for eight days. Even since Jewish people have observed Hanukkah in remembrance of their struggle for religious freedom and their restoration, symbolized by the abundance of oil.
Had the Maccabees not rebelled against the Greeks, the Jewish faith would have faded into Greek culture. There would have been no Jewish community for Jesus to be born into a century and a half later. No one would have remembered the messianic promises he claimed to fulfill. Without Hanukah, there would have been no Christmas.
The Maccabees refused to surrender what made them who they were. There are many parallels to that courage happening in our own day and age. There are those who face challenges to their chosen religion every day as well.
The Hanukkah miracle was also about abundance. It appeared there was only enough oil for one night but the faithful saw that God provided all they needed in abundance. Jesus would demonstrate that on a mountainside when he fed thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes.
Let's pause a moment today to acknowledge the power of the Hanukkah story and rejoice that God's provision for each and every one of His beloved children is shown in a shower of blessings. It is moments like this the give us our own personal 'Festival of Lights".