Each December, when Western countries are celebrating Christmas, the Jewish people also celebrate their Hanukkah. This year the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is from December 4th to 12th. It is also recorded in John 10:22 as the Feast of Dedication (of the Temple). The origins of this festival hark back to 164 BC. At that time, the Jews were under the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Their religion was under persecution by the king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This tyrant who was prophesied by Daniel to set up “the abomination that causes desolation” used his iron fist to force the Jews whose country had been destroyed many years ago to be Hellenized. He slaughtered many defiant Jews, and sent Greek priests into the Holy Temple to burn incense and sacrifice pigs on the altar to desecrate the Temple (Daniel 11:28-32). This act incited the Maccabee clan of Judah to rise up in rebellion. Their revolutionary troops risked their lives to bravely defeat the Seleucid army occupying Jerusalem, retaking control of the Holy Temple. In order to re-open the Holy Temple and restore worship, they began to cleanse it. But they discovered that all the vessels inside had been desecrated. Only sufficient olive oil for one day’s worth of lighting was not contaminated. According to the report in the Jewish Talmud, this oil that was only supposed to be enough for one day miraculously kept the light burning on the Temple lampstands for eight days, until they had time to find new oil for replenishment. To commemorate the Maccabee rebellion, the Jews later established the Festival of Lights. Each year during this festival, they light candles for eight days and give each other presents in remembrance.
Our church as no celebratory activities during Christmas. This festival originated from the Emperor Constantine, who wanted to Christianize the Roman Empire. So he used the date of the Harvest Festival to commemorate the birth of Jesus. It is illogical to use a date with pagan origins to commemorate the birth of the Savior. This writer believes that our church forgoing the celebration of Christmas is nothing to be boastful about. Compared to other significant teachings of the Bible, the issue of keeping festivals is secondary. On the other hand, the acceptance of man by God, living to the Lord, and standing before the judgment of God etc. are much more important to us (Romans 14:1-10).
This writer has discovered that in recent years, Christmas has degenerated further from “commercialization” to “de-Christianization” in the hearts of people in the Christian countries of Europe and the Americas. Government departments and public schools in many counties and states of the U.S. have gradually removed anything to do with Christianity in their Christmas celebrations for the sake of political correctness, such as the story of Christ’s birth and Christmas Hymns. Some department stores have ordered their employees not to say “Merry Christmas” to their customers, but “Happy Holidays” instead. This writer believes that as this trend develops, the term “Christmas Holiday” will soon be supplanted by another term. Perhaps some will say, “What’s wrong with not calling it Christmas?” That’s just discarding what Catholics deem to be “Christ and mass”. Doesn’t switching to “Happy Holidays” conform more to historical accuracy? After all, Jesus Christ really wasn’t born on this day! Judging from these trends, the elemental value of Christian belief has been continuously eroding in Western society. The voice of the Church no longer influences country and society. The testimony of Christians becomes weaker and weaker. Messages of God’s righteousness and peace can only be heard in churches. When Christ was born, there was no room at the inns in Bethlehem. All His life, our Lord had no place to lay His head, and even up to now, has He had any? In Sudan, an Australian teacher aroused the wrath and death-threats of the Muslims in the whole country because she mistaken named the dog of one of her students Mohammad. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is continuously misused and insulted every day, yet few are the Christians who speak up to protest in righteousness. The Jews fought valiantly to oppose the Hellenization of their religion and the desecration of their Holy Temple. Yet how many Christians today feel pained by the commercialization, secularization, and even “de-Christianization” of our religion, and are willing to testify more faithfully for our Lord?
During this holiday, if someone says to you, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, will you take the opportunity to respond by saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. May you receive the peace He bestows.”?
By: Daniel To