Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - There Is No Christmas Without Chanukah

Jonathan Bernis - There Is No Christmas Without Chanukah

Jonathan Bernis - There Is No Christmas Without Chanukah
Jonathan Bernis - There Is No Christmas Without Chanukah
TOPICS: Christmas, Hanukkah

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice and thank you for joining us today. I'm Jonathan Bernis and today on the program my co-host Ezra Benjamin joins me as we explore Hanukkah. This is a celebration. It's a Jewish celebration, but Ezra it's more than that. This is a universal biblical celebration, and we want you to understand why this is so important. And why you as a believer in Jesus may want to actually celebrate Hanukkah in your home. Ezra it's bringing back all the childhood memories.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, the smells of the potato pancakes, and we're gonna talk more about that in a few minutes, are wafting towards us, Jonathan, and I'm remembering childhood. You know, one of the, I can laugh about it now, but as a kid I remember other kids in the school would make fun of me and, you know, we as a family celebrated Hanukkah everybody else is celebrating Christmas. And the kids would say, "Ah, Hanukkah that's just kind of a junkie Jewish substitute for Christmas. You don't have all the fun". But really, when we look at history Hanukkah precedes Christmas by 100's of years.

Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely. But I'll say this also, you may call it a substitute for Christmas, but we got eight days of gifts. So, I use to think, "Well, the joke's on the Christians". Because as a Jew they get the one day as Christians, but as Jews we get eight days of gifts.

Ezra Benjamin: That's it.

Jonathan Bernis: Now, maybe they had bigger gifts on the one day, but eight days. It's an eight-day celebration of miracles, Hanukkah is about miracles. And some of you need a miracle, and I believe God is gonna give you that miracle today. So, Ezra, why is Hanukkah so important? Why is this a universal festival? And the answer is, let me just say this to start off: without Hanukkah, without the miracle of Hanukkah there would never have been a Christmas.

Ezra Benjamin: Unpack that for us Jon, what do you mean?

Jonathan Bernis: Well, you won't find the celebration of Hanukkah in the Old Testament. It's not in the Torah, it's not in the book of Leviticus along with the Passover and the feast of trumpets, and the feast of dedication. It's not in the cycle of Leviticus 23. It is mentioned in apocafold books, the four book of Maccabees if you happen to have a Catholic canon, but it's not mentioned in the Old Testament. Interestingly it's mentioned in the New Testament in John 10:22 we're told, "The feast of Hanukkah had come, and Jesus was in the temple". So, we do know this, Jesus observed Hanukkah. But without Hanukkah there would have never been a Christmas because the story which takes place during the intertestamental period, the period between the completion of the Old Testament and the time before the New Testament was written Israel, and this is a typical story, Ezra. Israel was under occupation. They were under, they were occupied by the Syrians and there was a tyrannical king named Antiochus Epiphanes iv, and he subjugated the people, he built an altar of Zeus in the temple and just, he defiled the holy of holies so there wasn't sacrifices. And he actually made the people of Israel bow down to Zeus, actually worship other Gods. And of course, the greatest commandment in Judaism for the Jewish people is, "Have no other Gods before you".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Right?

Ezra Benjamin: And we see that pattern in history, Jonathan, I can you think of a couple examples, but this is just another one, right? Where somebody comes in and in essence proclaims them self worthy of worship, but they're doing it in the Jewish temple. And they offer a profane sacrifice, an unbiblical sacrifice, prohibited by the Torah, and now the temple is rendered unacceptable for worship of God.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. And occupation and subjugation is part of the history of the Jewish people in the land. And then being banished from the land, and then being restored to the land, and then banished from the land, and being restored to the land. And you have all of these occupations, you have the mameLuke's, you have the Romans, right? You have the crusaders, again, you have, it's just back and forth. And they're being cast out, they're banished by the Assyrians, they're banished by the Babylonians, remnant return and rebuild a temple. But now we're at about 160 years before Jesus is born. Syria is now occupying the land, killing the Israelites, forcing them to bow down to other Gods and there was a rag-tag army called the Maccabees that emerged, actually very close to what's today, Ben Gurion airport if you've ever flown into Israel. And they raised up a Guerilla, like, a Guerilla warfare style military, vastly outnumbered and there's no mention of God in the story, but God's throughout the story. Same thing as the Book of Esther, God is at work behind the scenes. And this little rag-tag army, Ezra, defeats this world power and re-dedicates the temple, and we celebrate that rededication. So, without the miracle of the Maccabees defeating the Syrians this world power and driving them out, and then rededicating the temple. One Jesus would have never been born, and two there would never have been a temple for Jesus to worship in, to turn over all the tables, and to set things right, just wouldn't have existed. So, without Hanukkah no Christmas, but because God made a decree that, "As long as the sun shines by day, and the moon and stars by night, I will preserve the people of Israel before me". And so, the Maccabees were victorious and less than two centuries later Jesus came to that very land.

Ezra Benjamin: So important. It seems against all odds. And even with the rebirth of the modern state of Israel, Jonathan, against all odds with millions of Arabs and armies from multiple nations surrounding Israel on every side, a rag-tag group of people is able to March back into Jerusalem.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. It was a God moment, and we celebrate that. And we wanna talk later about eight days and the chanukiah and what we'll go onto that because that's another miracle of Hanukkah.

Ezra Benjamin: The season of Hanukkah is full of miracles, Jonathan, we're gonna talk more about those in a few minutes. But one of the things I remember growing up, we have some on the table here is, the dreidel. And you know, there's an Adam Sandler song that includes this and it's kind of a joke almost. But what our audience may not know is that the dreidel tells the story of Hanukkah.

Jonathan Bernis: Yes.

Ezra Benjamin: Like you said, just like during, before the Maccabees revolted the Jewish people were persecuted. And unfortunately, that's thematic throughout the history of the Jewish people. Centuries ago, when Jewish people were being persecuted outside the land of Israel, we don't know who, but the community elders came up with a creative way to tell the story of Hanukkah.

Jonathan Bernis: It's very creative.

Ezra Benjamin: It is. And it was very secret because the people who wanted to persecute the community and prevent the passing of Judaism from generation to generation didn't know what was going on and it's the story of the dreidel. Seeming like maybe four random Hebrew letters, but what it actually spells is, in Hebrew "Nes gadol hayah sham," which means in English, “a great miracle happened there.”

Jonathan Bernis: Right.

Ezra Benjamin: And so, our ancestors would spin the dreidel and they would teach their children, nes gadol hayah sham, and they would play a game with candy or coins. It looked like a game, but it was really telling the story of Hanukkah.

Jonathan Bernis: Have you ever seen a dreidel in Israel?

Ezra Benjamin: I have.

Jonathan Bernis: It has a different letter instead of saying, “a great miracle happened here, a great miracle happened there.”

Ezra Benjamin: Right, nes gadol hayah po.

Jonathan Bernis: But we grew up with this and it was a lot of fun because one means you lose a coin. And these aren't coins these are chocolate. So, one would be you gain all the chocolate. One you would get half, the other you would lose one and the other was just neutral so you kinda lost your turn.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: But I just remember these chocolates from when I was a kid. It was so much fun.

Ezra Benjamin: It was.

Jonathan Bernis: And it reinforced the miracle of the story, the miracle of Hanukkah.

Ezra Benjamin: You know, that's one of the fundamental truths of Judaism, Jonathan, is that it's passed, we say, “l'dor v'dor,” from generation to generation. And it's important to teach our children and even our grandchildren. I don't have grandchildren, I don't have kids yet, but one day, to teach our children and our children's children what God did for the Jewish people. And it's important for you at home to remember in this season of miracles, God can and still wants to do miracles, and is doing miracles in our life.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, and I think you can improvise this, Judaism and this is also part of the Christian faith, it should be. It's lost that we have a huge responsibility, I was looking for the right word. Just a fundamental responsibility to teach our children and our children's children. So, you carry the responsibility of teaching your children, which may be grown and having their own children. But for your grandchildren also, and you're teaching them and you're imparting to them. And one of the great ways of doing that are games. And you can go get a dreidel at one of the Jewish stores or order it online with some coins and you can be telling the story of the birth of the Messiah.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: At Christmas you spin it, and you play this game with candy, and you're reinforcing, this was a miracle that matters and it's part of your life. I love that. Quickly, donuts is one of the traditional foods we eat. Latkes, potato latkes I grew up, talk about the latkes.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, one of my favorites Jonathan. You know you're in a Jewish home in December if all you can smell all the time is oil and onions because it's one of the main ingredients in these potato pancakes, but just the smell takes me back to childhood and it reminds me of that season of togetherness and of telling the story of the Jewish people.

Jonathan Bernis: And it reminds us of another miracle, the miracle of the oil which is what we're gonna talk about when we come back. We need to take a short break as we tell you about an incredible opportunity to support Jewish Voice outreaches, to help Jewish people and their neighbors in need. You're giving today will be providing medical supplies and clean water to lost tribes of Jewish people and their neighbors struggling in difficult conditions in Africa. You can be part of it. Please consider what you can do today to provide this care, and most importantly the good news of Jesus the Messiah. You can change lives. So don't go away Ezra and I will be right back.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back, we're talking about Hanukkah today, a season of miracles. And this is your season of miracles. I love Hanukkah. Ezra, it's about miracles and this is the time for miracles, in the midst of COVID, in all of the challenges of this year.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. I need a few miracles. Do you need a miracle? Jonathan, one of the, and we haven't even unpacked the majority of the miracles about Hanukkah yet. We talked about this rag-tag band of people who said, "We are not going to be destroyed, we're gonna worship the Lord in Jerusalem". But more happens, so the more happens the Maccabees March back in, they regain control of the temple from the occupiers, the oppressors, but there's a problem, right?

Jonathan Bernis: There is. There is. I wanna just hold for a second and say one of the miracles that we've experienced at Jewish Voice is you. Many of you have been long-term partners of this ministry, and that's a miracle that you've enabled us to reach Jewish people and their neighbors in need and help people that otherwise would have died. Now, there's 1,000's of Jewish believers in Jesus in places like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. So, I just wanna say thank you. We all say thank you this holiday season. Thank you for standing with us and enabling us to reach our own people with the gospel. Whether we call him Jesus or Yahshua, he's the way, the truth, and the light.

Ezra Benjamin: Yes.

Jonathan Bernis: This is about light. So, yeah this represents, this is a chanukiah, it's a menorah, but unlike the one in the temple that was seven-branched, this is eight-branched because it commemorates eight days of miracles. And it's about the re-dedication of the temple. So, the Maccabees were victorious, they defeated the Syrians, they reclaimed the temple, they re-dedicated the temple. And that was a big job because they had sacrificed a pig. Antiochus Epiphanes had sacrificed a pig and put the blood, which of course is unclean all over the holy of holies. So they had to clean or remove and replace all the rocks, and then they had to light the chanukiah. They had to light the seven-branched menorah and there was a special oil that was used for this, and it took eight days to render the new oil. But they only found enough, I think in one of the crevices of the rock according to the rabbis, in the crevices of the temple enough oil for one day. Now was one day's worth of oil.

Ezra Benjamin: And so, it in the natural without a miracle it was impossible to re-dedicate the temple for worship.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, they couldn't start the menorah and keep it going because they didn't have the oil that they needed, the rendered oil to use 'cause it took eight days.

Ezra Benjamin: So, what happened?

Jonathan Bernis: The oil miraculously lasted for eight days.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: Eight days. Now, we see this miracle repeating itself in scripture where there's expansion. There was only two fish and five loaves.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But when they were brought to Yahshua, when they brought to Jesus it fed 5,000.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, this idea of the miracle of provision, of expansion and you see it everywhere. What is the tithe? It's about giving God a tenth back, and he stretches the 90% beyond the 100%.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: I love the miracle of expansion. And I believe that some of you need to experience the miracle of expansion. So, we have the eight branched chanukiah menorah and everyday we're lighting another candle through the eight days and we're getting gifts.

Ezra Benjamin: That's it.

Jonathan Bernis: So, do it. I mean, your kids will love this. Celebrate Christmas but also celebrate Hanukkah and we wanna make one of these available to you. Ezra if you light the Shamash, and I'll explain another thing that's so amazing, you're gonna love this.

Ezra Benjamin: I will. Now, Jonathan for our audience at home who's paying close attention and watching us, they're hearing you say, "Eight candles". But they're counting nine on this chanukiah. Explain that to them.

Jonathan Bernis: Yes, there are nine. So, there's eight that we light, one for each day but we begin with a ninth and that's the Shamash candle.

Ezra Benjamin: The one in the center in this case.

Jonathan Bernis: The one in the center. And on some chanukiahs it's off to one side, but it's always higher, it's a higher candle. So, whether it's on the left side, the right side, the center, most times in the center, it is the ninth candle but it's a special candle. It's not a candle that represents a day, it's a candle that represents the servant. Shamash is a servant. There's a servant candle, and that candle lights the other candles. I hope you're beginning to catch onto something here. This is not a Jewish tradition, but they don't realize they're lighting the Shamash candle and that light is lighting the others. So, Ezra lets light the other candles with the Shamash and I want you to think about some words that Jesus said. He said, "I am the light". I am the light. He lights us. The servant, Jesus was the greatest servant that ever lived. The servant of God who brings us light and turns us into light.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: He is the light of the world, and he says, "Now, you are a light set on a hill". Where is this illustrated better than anything I know? Than any symbol I know? The chanukiah. This is amazing.

Ezra Benjamin: The light of the world makes us the lights of the world.

Jonathan Bernis: And this is why you need to do it in your own home. You should be doing this because Jesus is the Shamash, the light that's lighting every other candle. It's symbolic, do this with your kids. When my kids light the candles at home, for eight days I'm reminding them, my wife is reminding them, Yahshua is the Shamash, and he is lighting you. You are the light, and they light the other candles. We light the Shamash, the father lights the Shamash, the mother lights the Shamash, but the kids are lighting the candles from the Shamash.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right. What a beautiful picture, it's gorgeous. What a full, meaningful celebration this is. And not only for Jewish people, you at home can do this, you should do it. What better time? And in the northern hemisphere it's the shortest, darkest days of the year. Including in Israel, at the time Yahshua, Jesus walked in the temple it was literally the darkest days of the year and he's proclaiming, "I'm the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life". Such an important truth.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, I can't stress enough to all of you, this is one of the greatest demonstrations of the words of Jesus that we have, the chanukiah where he is the servant candle. He's a little bit above, but he's serving the other candles. And we don't light the candles with a lighter or match, we light the candles with the servant candle. Do this with your grandchildren. Do this in your own home. Give thanks to Yahshua the light of life. Remind yourself that you're the light of the world and you need to be set on a hill and bringing light to all those around you. We have the air conditioning going so I'm worried that it's gonna go out, but there's a lot of light coming off these candles.

Ezra Benjamin: There is. And typical we can say, Hebrew or Israeli tradition, Jonathan, we started at the right as you're watching us here, and we went first night, second night, all the way to the far left which is the eighth night.

Jonathan Bernis: Each night. So it's one night, then we're lighting two candles, then three.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: It's an eight-day celebration and reminder that the Shamash which is lit first is lighting all of us. And look at it together, this is an amazing picture of the body of Messiah. Yahshua's in the center, a little bit taller, but he's lit us all. This is probably a more meaningful expression for followers of Yahshua than the Jewish person who doesn't know their Messiah, who only connects it with miracle of the oil.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: We get to connect with the miracle of the fire.

Ezra Benjamin: To fullness as those blinders are removed and we encounter Yahshua, Jesus the true Messiah. Now, Jonathan the chanukiah here on the table reminds us of the miracle of the eight days of oil. There's several other things made primarily of oil on the table, tell us about these.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, that's the whole idea, that the foods that we're eating are oil-based foods. We eat latkes because they're fried in oil.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: The donuts remind us of the oil, the latkes, the potato pancakes remind us of the oil. God wants to do the same thing in your life, he wants to provide a miracle of expansion. You may have financial needs, he wants to expand. You may have emotional needs, he wants to expand. You may have physical needs, he wants to expand your health, and to the areas of your body that need healing. God wants to do a miracle in your life this season.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, let's take a moment and pray for miracles, especially for those of you that are praying for a loved one to be saved. Maybe you have been contemplating whether it's your time now to give your life to the Lord. This is the time of your salvation. What better time than the holidays? What better time than Hanukkah? Which is taking place this week. Would you believe with us, together? You're praying for that grandchild, you're praying for that spouse to come back, you're praying for that friend to be saved, you're praying for God to provide or expand your finances, this is the season. Eight days, it was only enough for one. Ezra.

Ezra Benjamin: "Lord, we thank you for a reminder in Hanukkah. That what looks only like a oppression, and destruction, and despair can be transformed where your people can say, 'indeed in our lives a great miracle happens here'. So, we pray for all those joining with us in prayer today and the family members and the loved ones they represent, that you would transform stories of destruction, oppression, despair this holiday season into testimonies. That we will be able to rise up in faith and trust you to turn that story around so we can say, 'to your glory a great miracle was sent here'. In my life, in my family, in my situation this year, and it's in Jesus' name that we pray".

Jonathan Bernis: In Jesus' name, miracles, miracles, miracles. Salvation, for you, your loved ones, and your friends in Jesus' name during this week of Hanukkah. Hey, if you'd like more information about our ministry, you can log on to our website You'll find helpful resources on the website, and you'll also see the impact that your support is having on Jewish communities and their neighbors around the world, in places like Africa and Israel. In addition, you can also send us your prayer request right on the website and as I close, I wanna remind you along with Ezra, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The Bible says, “they shall prosper who love thee.” God bless you and have a season of miracles this Hanukkah and Christmas. Shalom.
Are you Human?:*