Hanukkah is in the Old Testament, right?
Actually, the only time Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible is in the New Testament. Since Hanukkah took place after the Old Testament was canonized, it is not included therein. The story of Hanukkah takes place in 166-160 BC when the land of Israel was under Greek rule for over 150 years since Alexander the Great took over in 333 BC. Since then, many Jewish people had adopted the Greek culture and ways. However, Antiochus Epiphanes, the current ruler, forbade Jewish festivals and Temple worship and wanted the Jewish people to be fully absorbed into the Greek culture. Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks and the rededication of the Temple.
So that brings us to the Bible, where is it if it happened after the Old Testament and before the New Testament?
This “festival of lights” is first mentioned in John 10:22
. In this passage, Jesus goes to the Jerusalem Temple to celebrate the Feast of Dedication. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah!
John 10 takes place in the Temple courts, while Jesus observes the feast of Hanukkah. His teaching gathered the Jewish people around him and with great anticipation, they asked Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24
Interestingly enough, the literal Greek translation reads: “How long will you lift up our souls?” The Jewish people at that time lifted up their souls in hopeful, anxious anticipation for the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies! Today, believers all around the world lift up their hearts and souls to Jesus as we longingly anticipate the day when Jewish people around the world embrace Jesus their Messiah.
We can also marvel at the fact that Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, actually celebrated Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication. This is truly poignant considering that this means Jesus celebrated the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, which essentially was a grassroots Jewish movement to preserve Jerusalem and the Jewish people from absorbing into the pagan, Hellenistic culture of their time. If the Maccabees had not reclaimed and rededicated the Jewish Temple, Jesus would not have been able to come to a Jewish Temple or a Jewish people!
So in essence, when we celebrate Hanukkah, we also celebrate the divinity of Jesus. During a holiday that celebrates the miracle of light, we celebrate the fact that Jesus came and brings light to the world and to our souls!