The children of the shepherds waited eagerly not far from Bethlehem to hear the story of their parents visit to see the Christ child. Little Johannes sat on the hill watching the tiny barn in the valley where they say the miracle baby was just born. But instead of his parents, a small boy came out carrying a drum and made his way up the hill.
“Oh hello.” The little drummer boy said when he saw the young shepherd boy. “I am Amahl.”
“I am Johannes.” The shepherd introduced himself. “Have you been to see the Christ child?”
“Yes, I traveled here with the wise men from the east. I could not afford a gift so they let me play my drum for him. I will never forget it.” Amahl told his new friend sitting next to him in the snow.
“Yes, I want to see the messiah so much. It is the greatest miracle to come to our people since the Hanukah miracle.” Johannes reflected.
“I am not part of your proud Hebrew tradition.” Amahl confessed. “What is this story of Hanukah?”
So Amahl began to draw pictures in the snow to tell the story. “A long time ago, over hundred and fifty years ago to be exact, the Hebrew people were being treated very cruelly by bad men who were the government. They did not respect our religion and they destroyed our temple and put filthy things that made our temple unholy on our alters and killed many many people”
“Oh that must have been terrible.” Amahl observed. “Stories are told of this horrible treatment around the world. The wise men who brought me talked of them during the long ride to Bethlehem. They said a great champion saved your people.”
“Yes, that’s true. His name was Judas Maccabeus and God gave him great victories over our oppressors. He was able to defeat armies of ten thousand with just a few hundred soldiers just like the great deliverers of history did. It was truly a show of how faithful and protective God is of his people.” Johannes continued.
“So you celebrate Hanukah because of the miracle of deliverance that God did through Judas Maccabeus?” Wondered Amahl.
“Well there’s more to the story.” Amahl continued happy to be able to tell the story of the Hanukah miracle. “Judas Maccabeas drove the oppressors from our land. Our priests and valiant men took the temple back as the battle raged. In the temple there is a flame that is to burn for eternity. It represents that God is present in the temple and He will never leave us or forsake us. When our priests reentered the temple that day, they found the lamp still burning despite the horrible things the enemy had done to our holy places. It showed us for sure that God never left us and will never leave us, even when we suffer.” Johannes said sound much like his father when the story is told each year in their home.
“This is a wonderful God you have. I wish all the peoples of the world could come to Him.” Amahl said sadly.
“The miracle of Hanukah shows that God will save his people no matter what. The priests found there was only enough oil for one day left for the lamp to continue to burn. Because they had to stay in the temple as the battle raged on, there was no way they could go find oil for the lamp and yet that lamp was God’s presence with us. For eight days they waited to get out to get more oil.” Amahl said whispering in awe.
“And the lamp? Did God’s presence lift because the oil ran out?” Johannes asked eagerly.
“NO!” Amahl said triumphantly, “The lamp burned for eight days on one days worth of oil. That is the miracle of Hanukah and why we celebrate each year for eight days to commemorate that God would not let his spirit lift from us even though supplies were not available to keep the lamp burning. Our God is not bound by missing oil or anything. He has the power to do miracles for all of his people. And now he has done the greatest miracle, he has sent His only son, Jesus to save all people so we all can be his children.”
“As we traveled.” Amahl said, “the wise men spoke of salvation for all people too. Isn’t your God just the God of the Hebrews and didn’t Jesus just come to save the Jews just as Judas Maccabee saved the Jewish people from outsiders?’ He asked confused.
Amahl face lit up because he suddenly understood why Hanukah and Christmas are about the same thing. “The miracle of the Christ child is like Hanukah. Just as God declared in Hanukah that his presence will always be with us, now even more is God coming to be our friend and savior because God himself has come, not just oil form him or blessing but God himself has come to be with us forever. And the miracle is greater still because as the angel choir sang, his salvation is for all people, the Jews, the wise men from the east, you Amahl, all people can receive the salvation from God.”
Both boys got goose bumps from the amazing thing they learned about God. And on that very first Christmas night, Jew and non Jew alike joined hands and accepted the gift of life from Jesus just like you and your family have done and people in your community will continue to do as you tell them the story of the amazing miracle of God’s blessings shown in Hanukah and in the coming of his son, our savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.