Jesus and Hanukkah
Surprisingly, the earliest historical source for this festival using the name Hanukkah or Dedication is in the New Testament and I used this as a source for the second part of the drama.
John Chapter 10 records an incident when Jesus clashed with local Judeans in the outer courts of the Temple at the feast of Hanukkah. They were hoping that Hanukkah would be the time when they might find freedom from the Romans. The Messiah might be someone who would be similar to Judah Maccabee - could Jesus fulfil this role? Instead John records Jesus speaking about eternal life, of his sheep in another fold, and of his relationship with God. Much of this was to explain the conflict between Jews and Christians by the end of the first century.
A hint of this desire for a king Messiah can also be found in the Palm Sunday story. Palm branches were waved at the first Hanukkah as the people celebrated the victory of Judah Maccabee. The palm branches of Jesus' final entrance into Jerusalem encapsulated the hope of the people that he, like Judah Maccabee, would lead the people to freedom. This was a very different concept to a Messiah who had come to suffer and die for his people and bring them new life through his resurrection. These different views of the Messiah have continued as different concepts in the two faiths. Christians would understand that Jesus knew that the light he had to bring was not just the Menorah in the Holy Place, but to bring light to the whole world. His job was not to lead an army against the Romans, but to fight a battle against death and evil and by beating them make it possible for all of us to be forgiven and have eternal life through him. The light in the Temple was a beautiful picture of what Jesus had come to bring and he was now going to spread that light to the rest of the world. Jewish people believe that the Messiah (or Messianic age) has yet to come and when it does it will be particularly characterised by peace on earth.
I don't feel that we leave the theme of Hanukkah without thinking about Jerusalem today. We again have a situation of terrible conflict, and the Temple (or Temple Mount) is not absent from that. I believe that the message of Hanukkah is that we should all pray for the peace of Jerusalem and between Jews and Palestinians even in difficult circumstances.