Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Celebrate Hanukkah ... or Christmas?

Many feasts from many cultures and religions are celebrated during the months of November and December each year.

Hanukkah is coming up early in December. Christmas is coming up on 25 December. Diwali is celebrated and many other pagan gods and their feasts from as many religions are worshiped during this time of the year.

Are we to celebrate these ... some ... maybe ... just a little bit ... any of them?

What should our approach be?

As we look at two of these feasts, let's consider what Jesus said about feasting and about light and how and when and so on ...

What then is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah or khanuká or חֲנֻכָּה is a Jewish feast also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabees Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BC. 

Hanukkah is observed for eight days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev to 2 Tevet (Hebrew calendar), occurring anywhere from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.

In 167 BC Antiochus Epiphanes IV ordered an altar for Zeus to be erected in the Jerusalem Temple. He banned circumcision of Jewish boys and ordered pigs to be sacrificed on the altar of the temple.

Antiochus's actions provoked a large-scale Jewish revolt known as the Maccabees Revolt after Yehuda HaMakabi ("Judah the Hammer") who later headed the revolt. By 165 BC the Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Yehuda HaMakabi ordered the Temple to be cleansed and for a new altar to be built to replace the polluted one. According to tradition only pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest could be used for the Temple menorah. The menorah was to burn throughout day and night. At the time of the re-dedication of the Temple only enough oil was available to burn for one day, but the menorah somehow burned for eight straight days This allowed adequate time for a new supply of dedicated and approved olive oil to be pressed. The eight-day Hanukkah festival was instituted to commemorate this miracle.

Hanukkah was popularized by the American Jewish community in the nineteenth century when Jewish groups looked for ways to adapt to American life, celebrating Hanukkah in place of Christmas which occurs at around the same time of the year.

So, what then is Christmas?

25 December (Gregorian-Roman calendar) is an ancient pagan holiday celebrating Roman-Babylonian gods and the winter solstice. The day was celebrated long before Roman emperor Constantine declared in A.D. 313 that the birth of Christ had to be incorporated on this specific date.

At the time Roman culture was already celebrating December 25 as a holiday called Saturnalia. This tradition honored Saturn, the god of agriculture and was celebrated with much feasting, merriment and giving of gifts. In true Babylonian style homes were decorated with embellished trees, mistletoe and elaborate dishes were prepared. When Rome eventually instituted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Roman church merely incorporated Christianity into Saturnalia by reasoning that the birth of Jesus is commemorated on this day (western culture celebrates the birth of a person - no examples are found in scripture where birthdays are celebrated). 

When Constantine became Emperor of Rome and converted to Christianity, yet still being the head of the Roman Empire, he was concerned about the unity and stability of his Empire. He strategically sought to reconcile, mix and blend pagan practices with Christian traditions and so merged paganism with the Roman church. To bring this to effect Constantine promulgated the Edict of Toleration in A.D. 313. The first mention of December 25 as Christmas day is found A.D. 324. 

Subsequently European culture expanded on this Babylonian mixture by adding their own Northern European pagan idols and inventions. These included Santa Clause, Zwarte Piet, lights, streamers, candy, the yule log, eggnog, Christmas-crackers, lucky-puddings, trees (Jeremiah 10:3-4 says For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not), and recently allowing for a whole month of commercial celebrations. Traditions such as an overweight, creepy old man on a reindeer-slay in the sky slides down chimneys, elves (Norwegian-Scandinavian paganism) making toys on the north pole, etc. were added. Parents deceive their children and holding them at ransom to be good or else ... Adults celebrate something (sic) at Christmas parties where alcohol is consumed elaborately, eating, dressing up in costumes or at the very least wearing a Christmas hat, is the order of the day. Families get together to gossip and talk about nothing more than their vacations and planning for the new year ... and there you have it - Christmas as we know it today! 

In relation to both these pagan feasts, let's consider what Jesus said: 

Joh 8:12 - Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

Joh 9:5 - As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 

Joh 11:9 - If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 

Mat 5:14 - Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 

How did Jesus say we should remember (Hebrew word means reenactment) Him?

1Co 11:24-25 - And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

On a specific date of the year?

1Co 11:26 - For as often [hosakis - meaning: multiple times, but also meaning: he who does] as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Behold Jesus! 

Celebrate Jesus!

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