If ever there was a year when we needed light and laughter it is this one. The good news is embedded in Hanukkah. I will explain with an anecdote.
In the early 1940’s a Rabbi from Berlin was brought before Adolf Hitler to his office. Of course, it was a fearful moment for the Rabbi because Jews were being rounded up all over Europe for extermination. So he mustered all of his courage and stood silent before the Fuhrer.
“Rabbi,” Adolf began, “I want you to help your people by giving me their names and locations so we can bring them to a new and safe town in the southern valley of the Fatherland.”
The Rabbi stood silent for a moment and instead of trembling, he began to smile and then broke out in laughter.
Hitler began to sweat and his face turned red. His voice rose in anger as he shouted,
“Why are you laughing? Don’t you know I can have you killed?”
The Rabbi collected himself and calmly explained,
“I am sorry to disturb you Mr. Hitler, but I was just thinking. When we Jews faced the Pharaoh of Egypt, he tried to work us to death as slaves.
He and his soldiers drowned in the Sea as they chased us, but we Jews eat Matzoh and drink wine in remembrance every year since.
Then there was Haman, the second in command of the Persian Empire. He wrote an edict to kill all the Jews in one day, but instead, he hung on his own gallows. Today we Jews celebrate Purim, eat hamantash, as we sing and dance, and give gifts in remembrance.
Then there was Antiochus Epiphanes, the ruler of the Greco-Syrian Empire who tried to destroy our Temple and our nation. Miraculously we fought back and God fought for us. Sadly, he died of a horrible disease. But we live on. Since then we sing and dance, spin the dreydl, give gifts, and eat potato latkes so we don’t forget that God is faithful to His Word.”
“So please forgive me for being disrespectful, but I couldn’t help but wonder as you spoke, ‘What kind of delicious food will we eat when you and your henchmen are dead, and we Jews still remain?’”
Hanukkah, like the other Jewish holidays, serves to remind us that as tough as it gets, God is faithful to keep us. Two other points before we close on this last night. The candles—we know why there are eight. Each of them reminds us that even though the eternal light was relit after the Maccabees captured and cleansed the Temple, there was only enough oil for one day. Miraculously it stayed lit until a heroic soldier returned from his long journey with more oil.
But why the ninth candle—why does it sit above the others—and why does it individually light each one?
The answer we have as Messianic Believers is that the Menorah is a symbol of the Body of Messiah. Yeshua is the Light, which is the light of mankind. The other candles picture those who believe in Him and receive of His light. Christmas is about “the people living in darkness have seen a great light.”
Get close enough to Jesus and you too become the light of the world through Him. The more candles, the more light. That is why we share His light. The world is dark enough.
The ninth candle, which is above the others is called Shammas, which means servant, just as Jesus is described.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
One last thought on this last night of Hanukkah. If the Jews have suffered so much for so long, why do they still laugh? And why do they make others laugh? After all, there are a disproportionate number of Jewish comedians in our world, just look it up!
The answer is found in the same passages that you will find God’s promise to Abraham. He promised Abraham that his descendants would always be on earth. He even told Abraham what to name the very first descendant, his son Isaac. Do you know what Isaac means in Hebrew?
God knew that through all the hardships they would face in life, beginning with four centuries of slavery, then battling for the Promised land, civil war, captivity, and then scattered into the nations where they would be despised. The Jewish people needed to laugh, as do us all. It is built into human nature. To be a blessing to others, as they were called to be, they would make the nations laugh as well and still do because God keeps His word.
Light and laughter are God’s gifts to us who are willing to believe and receive. Once you do, go and light up your world. And when the darkness seems to prevail, don’t forget to laugh. It’s part of God’s covenant promise—He will always be there.
“He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.