Should We Celebrate Christmas? (Part 3)

Those who are against celebrating Christmas claim it has pagan origins. However, I believe the real reason was Hanukkah, an eight-day Jewish festival of rededication that starts on December 25.

Almost 200 years before Christ was born, Antiochus Epiphanes (a successor of Alexander the Great) persecuted the Jews. On December 25, 167 B.C. he prohibited the practice of their religion and desecrated the temple by sacrificing pigs (an unclean animal according to the Jewish Law) on the altar. The Jews fought back and won. Exactly three years after the desecration of the temple, on the very same day the Jews rededicated it. They cleansed the Temple. They built a new altar in place of the polluted one. They kindled anew the fire on the altar and lit the lamps of the Menorah or temple lampstand. Since then, the Jews celebrated the Hanukkah (a Hebrew word for “dedication”). They also called it the Feast of Lights. Scholars believe the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus observed Hanukkah and they actually associated it with Christmas.

We find Jesus celebrating the feast in John 10: Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. (Vv. 22-23, NIV) It’s not a coincidence that Jesus was in the temple area on the Feast of Lights for He said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (8:12) It is also significant that the Lord referred to His body as a temple (2:19-22).

We should also remember that Jesus taught us: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16) We are the light of the world because our Lord Himself is the source of light. May our light so shine through our words and works! Like moths, our light will attract people to the Lord. Our light will not burn them though. Instead, as we share the Gospel through our lips and life, they will experience salvation.

Thus, we can celebrate Christmas with a clear conscience. Now our celebration is even richer in meaning for we saw how it relates to Hanukkah. We’ll never know on which day the Lord was born. But we certainly would like to celebrate His birth. And December 25 would be a good day to do so. Whichever day we choose, we have 1/365 chance of being correct. :-)

I greet you the way the Jews greet one another, “May you have a chag sameach!” (That’s Hebrew for a “joyous festival.”)


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