Hanukkah 2012

It’s a bit early this year, but as always there’s some good music to go with it.

For those not familiar with Hanukkah, it’s the last miraculous saving act of God in the life of Jews before the coming of Jesus. As such it stands in a long line of types of Christ in the Scriptures and Apocryphal texts foreshadowing the events we are preparing to celebrate this Christmas.

The Hanukkah festival of lights, which Jesus himself celebrated (John 10:22-30) recalls the legend how, when it came to light the menorah in the Temple again after casting out the Greek Seleucids who had sacrificed a pig on the altar of the Temple, there was only enough oil available for one day’s burning. However, that oil lasted 8 whole days (one Sabbath to the next Sabbath – oil burning for 8 times it’s normal time is generally considered a miracle) so each day in Hannukah you light the servant candle in the middle first (the “shamash” candle) and then one extra candle starting from the right.  The Shamash candle reminds us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He is the light of the world, the one whom the darkness can never put out.

But there’s more. As I wrote a few years ago, when you start to explore the timings around Jesus’ birth, you find yourself drawn to the conclusion that the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary that she was carrying the Son of God occurs on the final day of the Hanukkah festival.

  • May 7BC – Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Constellation of Pisces
  • Feb 6BC – All the bright planets conjoin in Pisces (including an occultation)
  • 20th Feb 5BC – The moon and Jupiter and Mars and Saturn are close, again in Pisces
  • March 5BC – A SuperNova in the sky – the “Star of Bethlehem”

Pisces is important because in Babylonian astrology it signifies Judea.

So this leaves us with a date after March 5BC for the Wise men to set off on their trek to Jesus. That still doesn’t help us work exactly when Jesus was born. For this we turn to Luke’s Gospel. Luke 1:5 tells us that John the Baptist’s father Zechariah belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. We know that this division was the 8th of 24 to serve in the temple and this information helps us put a date on when Zechariah was in the temple – roughly the ninth or tenth week of the Jewish year or to put it another way (if this chart is right) towards the end of May 6BC. He goes home, has sex with his wife and they conceive (Luke 1:24). This would have been around early to mid June.

Now let’s leap forward to Luke 1:26. In the sixth month (after John’s conception) Gabriel visits Mary. Now if John was conceived early to mid June then this takes us to early – mid December 6BC. What’s important about this date? Well it’s bang smack during Channukah, the festival of lights. Channukah celebrates the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean revolt. During Hanukkah candles are lit every day to remind Jews that though there was only enough oil to light the flame in the Temple for one day, the flame lasted eight days allowing a full consecration of the Temple to take place.

Why is this important? Well, without a proper consecration YHWH couldn’t return to the Temple. The fact that the flame lasted eight days meant that YHWH would have returned to dwell in the Holy of Holies.

Let’s now look at what Gabriel says to Mary in Luke 1:28 – “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” These last 5 words are not insignificant. Just in the same way that YHWH returned to the Temple after the consecration to be with his people, so Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary on the last day of Hanukkah signifies that YHWH is once again with his people, but this time he is living inside a human, not a stone building. Jesus’ conception at the climax of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a clear sign that he is indeed the Light of the World.

And now we simply need to count 40 weeks forward from the end of Hannukah in 6BC. This takes us to the 14th of September 5BC which is the first day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, surely the perfect day for the one who “dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us” (John 1:14) to be born. Sukkot remembers the Israelites in the wilderness before they entered Canaan, when YHWH was with them in the Ark. In the same way Jesus was born so that God would finally be with us forever (Immanuel).

Not convinced yet? Each day during Sukkot the worshippers in the Temple would have walked around singing Psalm 118:25-27:

O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.

The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

Assuming Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkot, that would have meant that these words would have been sung in the Temple every single day up until he was brought by Mary and Joseph for the customary offering, at which point Simeon would have taken him in his arms and said:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.
“

Pop Psalm 118:25-27 and Luke 2:29-32 next to each other and you see even more the context of Simeon’s prayer:

O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
and for glory to your people Israel.

Of course Psalm 118 itself is a great messianic Psalm, full of prophecy of Jesus.

Now, where did I put my Menorah?

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