Celebration of Light held

| December 23, 2014
Pastor Brent Heishman lights the menorah during the Celebration of Lights program at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum on Saturday, Dec. 20. Robert Specter, pictured on right, is the president of the Rock of Israel Ministries and spoke about the similarities of Hanukah and Christmas.

Pastor Brent Heishman lights the menorah during the Celebration of Lights program at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum on Saturday, Dec. 20. Robert Specter, pictured on right, is the president of the Rock of Israel Ministries and spoke about the similarities of Hanukah and Christmas.

COSHOCTON – People who embrace the Messianic Jewish lifestyle believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but still hold on to their Jewish lifestyle and traditions. Robert Specter, president of the Rock of Israel Ministries, follows the Messianic Jewish lifestyle and presented a program on Hanukah at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum on Saturday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.

The program was sponsored by Victory Assembly of God in Newcomerstown with Pastor Brent Heishman, who is hoping to launch a church here in Coshocton in the spring. Those who attended the event had an opportunity to win a gift after each candle of the menorah was lit, and Spector spoke about the history of Hanukah as well as eight similarities between Hanukah and Christmas.

“Hanukah has a rich heritage that intertwines with the Christian and Jewish faith,” said Heishman. “It is most likely that Jesus celebrated Hanukah.”

The Hebrew word, Hanukah, means dedication and is a celebration of an event that happened 200 years before the birth of Jesus. At about that time, people of Jewish faith in Israel were under the rule of a Syrian king, but were free to follow their own religious beliefs, until the king Antiochus IV came into power. He forbade the Jewish people from celebrating their own faith and demanded that everyone worship the Greek gods. He killed many people, including women, children, and infants of the Jewish faith.

Mattathias, a Jewish priest, strongly objected the new king. He, along with his five sons, decided to take a stand for their faith and fight. One son, Judah, led the Jewish people in a revolt. This small army of Jewish people defeated the king’s army and in celebration, returned to their temple, only to find it desecrated. After cleaning up the temple and rededicating it to their faith, the Jewish people were once again dismayed to find that when they lit the holy fire in the temple menorah, there was only enough oil to last one night, and there was no time to produce more oil before the holy flame burned out. Miraculously, the oil that was only supposed to last one night lasted eight nights, which is considered the miracle of Hanukah.

“The purpose of the candles is to shine brightly to announce that God is a miracle-working God,” said Specter. “He can do all things. Hanukah is a miracle. Only God could have made that happen. God is powerful. He can do mighty deeds. He must have helped the Maccabiah army overcome the king’s army. The other miracle is the oil that should have lasted only one day, but it lasted eight days. This holiday is a celebration that God can perform miracles and if he did miracles 400 years ago, he can do miracles today.”

A similarity between Hanukah and Christmas is the presenting of gifts. Gifts are given during the eight nights of Hanukah. Traditionally, the gifts were given to children by the parents, but since Santa Claus has become an icon of Christmas, children of Jewish faith now receive gifts from Hanukah Harry. Also traditionally, gifts were given to the poor each night so that those of lesser means could also celebrate the holiday.

“In Judaism, we see the gift of God,” said Specter. “In Christianity, we see the gift of God’s Son.”

Another similarity is the date. The day Judah was able to retake the Jewish temple was exactly three years after the date it was desecrated, which was the 25th day in the winter month. This is why Hanukah is celebrated in the winter and perhaps why Christians chose Dec. 25 as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The use of trees is another similar feature of Hanukah and Christmas. In the Christian tradition, Christmas trees are decorated. In the Jewish tradition, the menorah represents a tree with nine branches, eight branches off of the center candle. The center candle is called the shamash candle, or servant candle, and is the first candle lit in the menorah each night of Hanukah. This candle lights all the other candles of the menorah. Some people of Jewish faith also have a Hanukah bush that they decorate with blue and white lights.

Decorating with lights is another similarity between Hanukah and Christmas. Hanukah is also known as The Festival of Lights and features nine lights (candles) throughout the eight-day celebration. Some Jewish people also put blue lights on their homes for the season, and Christians celebrate with white or multi-colored lights.

Another similarity is of course, the similarity of miracles. For the Hanukah celebration, it is the miracle of a smaller army defeating a king’s army to win back their freedom of religion. In the Christian faith, it is the miracle of a virgin birth.

Families are also a similarity with Hanukah and Christmas. While some Jewish celebrations happen at the temple, Hanukah is celebrated at home with food, songs, and games. The dreidel is a game that is associated with Hanukah. It is played with each player receiving ten coins. Each player spins the dreidel and depending on what side the dreidel lands, depends on how much of the center pot of coins the player receives. The four sides of the dreidel say, “Great Miracle Happened There”. In Israel, it says, “Great Miracle Happened Here”.

Another similarity is the presence of the enemy in Hanukah and Christmas. The Syrian king was the Jewish enemy while King Herrod was the enemy of Christmas as he tried to find and kill Baby Jesus.

The last similarity was the presence of the hero. Judah was considered the hero of the Jewish faith while the true hero of the Christian faith was Jesus. Other heroes of the Christmas holiday are the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and also the Wise Men.

“Jesus is the deliverer,” said Specter. “He is the one called to deliver us from our sins.”

Specter is a pastor and missionary. He is the president of Rock of Israel Ministries which was started by his father after he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Specter was born in Haiti while his father was on a missionary trip. The goals of the Rock of Israel Ministries are as follows: Jesus is the Messiah, help churches understand that the Bible is a Jewish book written by Jewish people, and provide resources to help in evangelism and understanding scripture. For more information, visit rockofisrael.org.

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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