Earlier this year our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrated Purim…the time when they remember Gods salvation of ancient Israel from the murderous plot set by Hamon while they were exiles in Babylon. During this celebration they read the whole of the book of Esther and even dramatize parts of the story as an activity within the family. Just as they remember Gods plan of Salvation for the captive Jews in Babylon so long ago we in this season of Advent remember Gods plan of Salvation for us which also took place so long ago and enact the Nativity scene when “God became man and dwelt amongst us”
But the story of Esther is more than a story of Gods continual preservation of His special people. It is a beautiful picture of Esther the interceding Bride who dared to risk her own life to intercede for her own people. …a story of self sacrifice and devotion shown by many others of Old Testament fame. Moses who ..”.by faith Moses, when he was grown, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer oppression with God’s people rather than to experience the fleeting enjoyment of sin.” Heb 11 v 25 or Daniel who said…”If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Dan 3 v 18.
This devotion to God is what God longs to see in His people today, Jew and Gentile alike. From the beginning He exhorted us to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart with all of your mind and with all of your strength” Duet 6 v 5 and nothing delights Him more than our devotion to Jesus His beloved Son who is not only our Saviour but our Bridegroom King. We are created for Him and Him alone. That’s why St Paul saw that his highest responsibility towards all believers was to be….”jealous for you with a godly jealousy ( because) I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Cor 11:2,3
He was simply…preparing the Church as a precious Bride, a pure virgin, for the Lord Jesus Christ who was indeed Her husband, the Bridegroom King. In fact he claims to have promised Jesus that and he looks forward to the time when he is able to present Her to Him. He consequently is jealous over Her for he states quite emphatically that She has one husband.
There is a passion in his words and an intense sense of focus. All pastors and ministers would do well to embrace the same clarity of understanding regarding their mission. However this does not negate our primary responsibility as Jesus Bride to be sure that we are ” making ourselves ready” for Him and for His coming, for this is indeed what we too are called to do.
We see in the story of Esther how meticulous was Esther’s preparation for her wedding day. She and her attendants were so careful to observe all that was required of her.
“Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women– for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women– the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace.…” Esther 2 v 12
In the same way the Jews are very careful to remember that at this time of Hanukkah they show appreciation of there spiritual and historical inheritance by remembering the sacrifice of their national heroes, of whom Judas Maccabeus proved to be the most memorable, in their revolt against the Roman armies. This eventually brought about the restoration and re-dedication of their Temple in 164 BC after it had been totally desecrated by the sacrifice of pigs (an unclean animal to the Jews) on the high altar by Antiochus Epiphanes and the re-dedication of the temple to the God Zeus in 167 BC. By these blasphemous acts it seemed to the Jews that their spiritual light had gone out. Jews had to convert or die. It was a time of great darkness.
But after three great victories, Judas Maccabeus and his men cleansed the temple and immediately relit the ner tamid (eternal light), which burned constantly in the Temple. They built a new altar in place of the one that had been defiled, and dedicated it again to the worship of the Lord. It was on the fifteenth day of the ninth month, which was in the early winter and they commanded that a feast of eight days should be kept each year at this season in memory of the dedication. (1 Mac. 4:36-59; 2 Mac. 10:1-9)
However their was not sufficient oil to keep the lamps in the Temple alight for that long.They found only a single jar of oil, which was sufficient for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, but miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return. And the eight days of Hanukkah are celebrate to remember the miracle of this single jar of oil.
It is called the Festival of lights and at this time the seven branch candlestick is replaced by an eight branch one and a candle is lit each day of the eight.
Another great supernatural light was possibly lit at the time of Hanukkah. It is most likely that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit during Hanukkah since this timing fits perfectly with the period of Elizabeth’s conception and pregnancy which occurred about six months before Mary’s. If so then the Light of the World had been conceived.
John’s father, Zachariah who served as a priest offering incense in the Temple had had a vision of an angel promising him that his wife would bear him a son and the sign of Zachariah’s own dumbness would affirm that promise. Presumably he was sent home because of his loss of speech and so was with Elizabeth at John’s birth and away from his priestly duties. At John’s birth Zechariah prophesied that his son would go before One who would be called “the prophet of the Most High” and who would “prepare the way of the Lord”. This One would “give light to those who sit in darkness”. Luke1 v76 and 79
This person of course was Jesus and Jesus is the Light of the world had come. It’s fitting if He was conceived at the beginning of Hanukkah which is the Festival of Light.
And Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World”. Jn 8 v 12
“And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1 v 5 – 7