by Fran Caffey Sandin
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5: 16 NASB
Decorating our Christmas tree is like taking a walk down memory lane, as ornaments are one of my favorite souvenirs to purchase when traveling. Lightweight and easy to pack, they usually include an object that reminds me of our visit. This year I was noticing in particular a small replica of a menorah that I bought in Old Jerusalem.
Jewish families also enjoy a winter holiday: the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah (which means dedication). It may surprise you to learn that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22-23). Here’s the reason why.
During the time period between the Old and New Testaments (167-164 BC), a conquering king named Antiochus (who was Syrian-Greek) invaded the Jewish nation. He forbid the worship of the God of Israel, directing the Jews to worship him instead. To insure his law was obeyed, he defiled the only place where sacrifices could be made: the temple in Jerusalem. He did this by sacrificing a pig upon the holy altar.
The nation was outraged. God raised up a small band of heroes who became known as the Maccabees. They fiercely drove Antiochus and his troops out of the land. Hanukkah (or Festival of Lights) commemorates that victory, specifically when the Jews recaptured the temple and rededicated it to God’s service. During that event, a giant menorah, a candelabra with four candles on each side and one in the middle, was lit.
It was the first time in many years, as the Greeks had extinguished the menorah. Now there was no more than one day’s supply of oil to keep the candelabra burning. It would take eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Nevertheless, the Jews lit the lamp stand, and it continued to burn for eight full days! Obviously, this was a miracle that deserved to be remembered.
Thus the Festival of Lights was established. In modern Jewish homes, the miniature menorah candles are lit, one more each day, to represent the eight days that the miracle took place. The center candle is the shamash, a Hebrew word meaning servant, and this is used to light the other candles.
From Scripture, Christians know that Jesus is the Light of the World, God’s shamash.
The Jerusalem temple has been destroyed, but when we confess our sins and believe that Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross, and that He was resurrected from the dead, we become the temple of God, and the shamash (Jesus) shines in our hearts. Through God’s Holy Spirit, we have a never-ending supply of oil to keep our lamps brightly burning.
All of us have sinned, and we have no way to change our lives apart from the power of God. When Jesus came, He gave us eternal life and light. All we have to do is acknowledge our sins and inadequacy to make it right and believe in Him, accepting His gift of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Then we become a reflection of His light to others of His great love and peace. Hallelujah! What a shamash! What a Savior!
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that anyone who is living in darkness today would experience the true meaning of Christmas by allowing the light of Jesus into their hearts. Without Jesus there is no peace, no joy, no hope. When His light shines within, we are forever changed. May His grace abound in this Christmas season. May our lights shine for His glory. In His name, Amen.
About the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. and has co-authored others. Jim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren. Visit Fran at her website: www.fransandin.com.
Join the conversation: What is the most effective way of demonstrating servanthood that you have witnessed?