Ask Pastor Adrienne: Christmas or Hanukkah: What's the difference?

Adrienne Greene
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Pastor Adrienne Greene

Dear Pastor,

My Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah while we're celebrating Christmas each year. What's the difference?

A: The difference is vast: Hanukkah is a lesser Jewish holiday regarding Jerusalem's Jewish Temple rededication, and Christmas is the high-holiday of the Christian Church which marks the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Hanukkah festivities spread over eight consecutive days; Christmas is one glorious day.

Sadly, our Jewish brothers and sisters, whose religious root system we share, are not believers in Christ as the Son of God. They honor his Jewish heritage and acknowledge his prophetic gifting ... considering him a remarkable Rabbi and teacher ... but stop short of calling him "savior." Thankfully not all Jews today maintain the ancient separation. Many have received Christ's free gift of salvation as Christians do. These special people are labeled "Messianic Jews."

The moment in history when Jews diverted their religious beliefs from those of the Christ-followers was well documented by the disciple Matthew. Here is the discussion that ensued among the Jewish leaders when it was reported to them that the tomb of Christ was found empty: "And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, 'You are to say, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were asleep.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and keep you out of trouble.' And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day" (Matthew 28:12-15, NASB).

Lies were instantly circulated by the Rabbis and their hired rumor-mills that Jesus did not rise from the dead as he prophesied, but instead, his corpse was stolen and never recovered. Great pains were then taken by the Jewish rulers, I'm sure, to prevent their temple congregants from spotting Christ as he traveled among the living for forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).

Christmas is about the light of the world (Jesus). Hanukkah is about light. Specifically, it is about the Jewish lampstand whose blueprint, design and operation were dictated by God to Moses, beginning in Exodus chapter 25. We call this special lamp the "menorah," made up of three unified branches on each side of a taller, central candle. Today, the commercial menorahs sold in stores include nine candlesticks due to strict religious laws that prohibit the seven-armed lampstand from being seen or burned outside the confines of a synagogue.

In addition to Hanukkah marking the rededication of the Jerusalem temple around the second century B.C., the holiday also commemorates a miracle that took place, according to the Talmud: Rome had unlawfully turned Jerusalem's holy place into a pagan temple, so the Maccabees (Jewish warriors) fought and won back their sacred building. But during the siege, there was lamp oil enough to sustain the menorah for only one day - but it lasted for eight. Hanukkah feasts and gift-giving now commence and sustain for eight candle-lit days in homage to the miracle.

I love the fact that Hanukkah and Christmas coincide each year; that Jews and Gentiles worship in parallel. We do, after all, share the most important part of both festivities: The Jewish heritage of Jesus Christ.

Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: info@adriennewgreene.com or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information, please visit www.adriennewgreene.com.