Festival Of Lights
by Beverly Brown, Set Me Free Ministries Prayer Team Coordinator
Although I wasn’t raised in a Jewish home, my father was Jewish and my Jewish grandma lived with us. I knew she didn’t eat pork, and I knew she went to Temple every Saturday. I knew my dad would eat only matzo during Passover, and I knew neither of them believed that Jesus was God’s Son. But that was about all I knew.
But now that I’m all grown up, I regret that I never took the time to learn more about their faith and my Jewish heritage. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve begun to dig a little deeper into the rich traditions of the Jewish people and adopt some of them as my own. After all, Jesus was Jewish and celebrated all of the Jewish feasts.
We can read about one of those celebrations in John 10:22: “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” The Feast of Dedication is also referred to as The Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah. It is the season when the Jewish people remember and celebrate the re-dedication of the Temple during the period of the Maccabees. While I won’t go into the history of Hanukkah, I would encourage you to read more on your own. It is a fascinating story of promise, faith, courage, and miracles.
In this short blog, I want to focus on the light itself, because what makes it the Festival of Lights, after all, is the lights! And so, every year I bring out my little menorah (candle holder) and put it in a special place. Traditionally, the candles are lit at sunset adding one candle each night through the eight nights. There is always one candle at the center of the menorah that is raised higher than the others—it is this candle that is used to light all the others. It is called the Shamash, or servant candle. I love that symbolism! As Christians, we know Jesus as the “suffering servant.” He is the one that gave His life to bring each of us His light, and apart from Him, we have no light. In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Light of the world.”
Additionally, every year I am struck by how much the light increases with the addition of the next candle. Each new light brings more brightness into my dark room, and by the eighth night, the entire room is lit! Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us as Christians to continually surround ourselves with other believers for the same reason. We are to “stir up love and good works” in one another (verse 24).
It has also been my tradition during Hanukkah to extinguish each candle individually, leaving the Shamash for last. Just as how the room gets lighter as each candle is lit, it is amazing how dark the room gets as each candle is extinguished. When that final candle is put out, how dark the room seems.
During this Christmas season, let us remember that Jesus came as the Light of the world, the Suffering Servant. As Isaiah 9 prophesied, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined!” Or, as Zach said in the last blog, “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Geneses 1:4). Amen!