It is right and proper to keep traditions that remind us of the faithfulness and goodness of God. Chanukah (Note 1) is one of those traditions. Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC. Today begins the eight day Chanukah observance during which candles are lit each day in remembrance. For the Christian this is worship bordering on ordinance. It is a sweet aroma that makes God smile.
The Jewish people had been living under the oppressive rule of the Greeks. Practice of the Jewish religion had been outlawed and the Israelites forced to worship Greek gods, The Temple had been desecrated by offering a pig sacrifice to Zeus on the altar.
A small band of Jewish rebels led by Mattathias and his son Judas Maccabeus fought back. They eventually succeeded in driving the Greek Army out of Israel. Their first act was to cleanse and rededicate the Temple. The retreating Greeks had contaminated most of the olive oil that was available for the Temple lamps. Miraculously, a single cruse of uncontaminated oil was found. The Talmud tells us that, although the uncontaminated oil was only enough for one day, it lasted for eight days until more oil could be obtained. Hence, the significance of the eight days of Hanukkah and the lighting of a candle each day.
And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: it was winter; and Jesus was walking in the Temple in Solomon’s porch. John 10:22-23 CSV
Near the end of His ministry, Jesus came to Jerusalem for the observance of Chanukah, celebrating the festival in the same temple that had been cleansed and rededicated two centuries earlier. In John 8:12 Jesus tells us “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” Just as the little jar of holy oil lit the Temple for the Jewish people in the second century BC, Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness of this world. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will not walk in darkness.
In 2023, Chanukah begins at nightfall (Note 2) on December 7th and continues until nightfall on December 15th. After nightfall each day candles on a menorah are systematically lit. As with any tradition dedicated to honoring God, prayers and the recitation of holy text are integral components of the event. The blessings are read before lighting the candles. Formal Jewish blessings are not essential. Passages from the Book of Psalms may be used; consider Psalm 30, 33, 67, 91, or 133.
Note 1: Chanukah (traditional), also Hanukkah, Hebrew, meaning dedication. Also Feast of Dedication, Festival of Lights.
Note 2: Nightfall is the onset of complete darkness following sunset.