We’ve all heard of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. But have you heard of The Christian School that Expelled Chanukah? You may remember that a couple of years ago I told the following story about some friends of mine and how they encountered the suppression of Chanukah. But, since Chanukah begins tomorrow night and this story is just as relevant, I thought it would be okay to tell it again. So here goes.
A committed young messianic Jewish couple sent their first child to a Christian school for kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher asked several Moms to help with the class Christmas party by bringing cookies. This Jewish mom who loves the Lord Jesus, volunteered, saying she would also bake and bring Chanukah cookies. This makes perfect sense since Jewish followers of Jesus generally observe both the festival of Chanukah and the birth of the Messiah Jesus. After signing up to bring Chanukah cookies, the kindergarten teacher sent this loving mom an email, writing that since this is a Christian school, only Christian holidays are allowed to be observed. In other words, keep your Jewish Holidays and Chanukah cookies out of our Christian school. Even after trying to explain the significance of Chanukah for Christians, the teacher, backed up by the school administration, remained adamant, these children would not learn about Chanukah or eat Chanukah treats. This well intentioned teacher is emblematic of what is all too common among Christians: A failure to understand the Jewish roots of our faith and a determined desire to remain ignorant about the Jewish people.
So, why would Chanukah cookies be appropriate for a Christian school or any Christian family? Why should Christians learn about or even celebrate Chanukah? Well to begin, the events of Chanukah were predicted in the Hebrew Bible. In Daniel 8:23-26, the prophet predicted the rise of “an insolent king, skilled in intrigue” who would “cause terrible destruction” and “destroy the powerful along with the holy people.” Additionally, “He will stand against the Prince of princes, Yet He will be shattered—not by human hands.” This is a prediction of Antiochus IV, who attempted to destroy the Jewish people and the observance of their biblical faith in 167 B.C. He was opposed not just to the people of Israel but to their future king, the Messiah Himself. And Daniel 11:31, also speaking of Antiochus, says that He and “his forces will rise up and desecrate the Temple fortress. They will abolish the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation.” This refers to the Antiochus’ offering of a swine to Zeus on the altar of the Holy Temple and his prohibition of worship of the true God of Israel. Daniel 11:32 says that “the people who know their God will be strong and take action.” These are the Maccabees, who rose up and by the hand of God, defeated that army of Antiochus and rededicated the Temple for worship, resulting in the establishment of the festival of Chanukah. In fact, the word Chanukah means “dedication” and remembers this rededication of the Temple by the Jewish people, faithful followers of the God of Israel.
But fulfilled Bible prophecy isn’t the only reason for Christians to learn about Chanukah. Another motivation for understanding the festival is that it is a reminder that without Chanukah, there would be no Christmas. Antiochus was a genocidal maniac, who wanted to destroy all the Jewish people (he was not the first, nor was he the last). If he succeeded, then Jesus, the son of David and the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1) would not have been born. The events of Chanukah reminds us that God preserved the Jewish people so that the Jewish Messiah could be born. The angel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:22-23).
Beyond these reasons, one more remains. We often ask what would Jesus do? Well John 10:22-23 tells what He actually did. It says, “Then the festival of Dedication (Chanukah) took place, and . . . Jesus was walking in the Temple complex . . .” Jesus left Galilee to celebrate Chanukah in Jerusalem. It was there He revealed His own deity, declaring, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30).
Certainly there are good reasons for followers of Jesus, even those who are not Jewish, to learn about Chanukah, perhaps to celebrate it, and yes, even to have kindergarten kids in a Christian school, enjoy some crunchy and sweet Chanukah cookies.