FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS FOR JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
This Christmas the lights in town and on houses have been better than ever. I expect you had Advent candles in church to remind you of the Christmas festival. But it’s not only Christians who celebrate with lights - the Jews do so as well. I’ve got something to show you that I brought back from Israel, the country of Jesus and the Jews - it’s a seven-branch candlestick called a "Menorah".
One of the Old Testament prophets, Zechariah, had a vision. An angel woke him and asked him, ’"What do you see?" Zechariah answered, "I see a solid gold lamp-stand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights"’ (4:1-6). The prophet asked the angel what it meant and was told it was a picture of the Spirit of God shining out in the world.
This meant a lot to the people who were still faithful to God. For hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the Jews had been expecting a deliverer, a messiah, to help them to get rid of foreigners who had invaded their land. About 200 years before Jesus came, a wicked king of Syria, called Antiochus oppressed them. He had forbidden the worship of God and even desecrated the temple in Jerusalem.
But there were some brave Jews who fought against this evil man. They overcome him and were able to clean up the temple but when they came to re-light the temple light there was a problem. There was only enough pure oil for one night, yet by some miracle it continued burning for eight nights. That made such an impression on the Jews that they set aside 8 days each year about this time of the year, as a Festival of Lights, called Hanukkah, to remind them of God’s goodness to them.
Of course, we’re not Jews, but Christians if we love Jesus. The eight days of Christmas remind us of His coming to Earth as a baby to begin His mission of becoming the Saviour of the world. Right at the end of the Bible, in the book of the Revelation (1:12-20), there’s another picture of the menorah, only this time there are seven golden lamp-stands. It’s Jesus who’s standing among them and telling the writer that they are they churches whose job it is to shine out the love of God in a dark world.
Picture of menorah: www.friendsofhcs.freeserve.co.uk/menorah.gif